Bible Diary for April 16th – April 22nd

April 16th

2nd Sunday in Easter
St. Bernadette

1st Reading: Acts 2:42-47:
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

2nd Reading: 1 Pt 1:3-9:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Gospel: Jn 20:19-31:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Now Jesus doesn’t have to mask His divinity to His disciples. If before He tempered His display of power to them, now He lets go of this self-imposed limitation and allows His Godhead to shine through. Bursting the gates of death and emerging triumphant, no locked doors created by human hands, could deter the Risen Lord. Not even the doubts of some disciples, prominent among whom was Thomas, could stop the momentum of Easter. There are things to be done ahead.

So the Lord commissioned His disciples to continue His work. There is a transfer of authorship of His mission to the disciples. Their time had come. The Master and Teacher had made a master and teacher to His once fumbling, weak and slow-in-understanding followers. He could now plan His return to the Father. The mission rests on capable hands. Have we ever thought of the purpose why we were born? Perhaps the reason why we are still restless today is because we have not yet done that for which we were born. It will not be easy. But today is a blessed day to reflect and see what God wants me to do. Spending a quiet time for this exercise might help us reorient our life to something meaningful and productive.

April 17th

1st Reading: Acts 4:23-31:
After their release Peter and John went back to their own people and reported what the chief priests and elders had told them. And when they heard it, they raised their voices to God with one accord and said, “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, you said by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David, your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples entertain folly? The kings of the earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed.

“Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do what your hand and your will had long ago planned to take place. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Gospel: Jn 3:1-8:
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

This will be the beginning of the Gospel trilogy that involves Nicodemus. He was an important member of the religious leaders but felt the need to talk with Jesus. Not yet strong to declare his belief in the Lord, he came under cover of darkness. His fear of being caught by his peers and his desire to know more about Jesus made him cautious. He had many questions. These had to be settled first before he made his judgment whether to be with or against Jesus. His questions were direct and earnest. Here is a man who genuinely hungered for the truth. Whether he would find it or not during the time of Jesus, still he was a man on the right track to find that which he had been looking for through the years.

April 18th

1st Reading: 4:32-37:
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the Apostles Barnabas (which is translated “”son of encouragement””), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the Apostles.

Gospel: Jn 3:7b-15:
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to him, ‘How can this happen?” Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

This is the second part of the Gospel trilogy involving Nicodemus. Jesus continues to instruct him on the truth about Himself. At first, Nicodemus will have a hard time understanding him. All that Jesus says seem to be abstract and does not make sense. But Nicodemus, the seeker of truth perseveres. “How can this be?” was all he could say for the moment. Things are not yet clear. But little by little comprehension will set in. It may take a long time. For some it will even take a lifetime. Still, Nicodemus made the first step. This is after all the most crucial step when making the journey of faith.

April 19th

1st Reading: Acts 5:17-26:
The high priest rose up and all his companions, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and, filled with jealousy, laid hands upon the Apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said, “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.” When they heard this, they went to the temple early in the morning and taught. When the high priest and his companions arrived, they convened the Sanhedrin, the full senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the jail to have them brought in.

But the court officers who went did not find them in the prison, so they came back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked and the guards stationed outside the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” When the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard this report, they were at a loss about them, as to what this would come to. Then someone came in and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are in the temple area and are teaching the people.” Then the captain and the court officers went and brought them, but without force, because they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

Gospel: Jn 3:16-21:
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

The last part of the gospel trilogy involving Nicodemus leaves us a resounding note on love. The love of God to the world is confirmed by Jesus not only by His testimony but more so by His presence. He is the love incarnate of the Father to the world. And so Jesus’ appearance to the world should not be feared. Only those who are incapable of love will abhor Him since He will be a sign and presence of what they have missed throughout their lives. The heart that has been long dead will find it difficult to live again in love. And so the blessing of God’s love incarnate became for many a sign of their condemned lives. They will therefore exert all efforts to extinguish this reminder of what they have lost in life.

April 20th

1st Reading: Acts 5:27-33:
When the court officers had brought the Apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the Apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” When they heard this, they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

Gospel: Jn 3:31-36:
The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.

Note Peter’s bold and emphatic statement before the Council: “Better for us to obey God rather than any human authority!” Obedience to God is the better option not just for Peter but for the whole world. But how tempting it is to serve Caesar and not God! Aligning with Caesar seems to provide immediate gratification for our peripheral needs and a fleeting sense of security whereas serving God seems to reduce us to a minority often afflicted with much suffering. But as Peter and other apostles knew very well, such an experience can be fleeting and deceptive, and the reverse of it is the lasting reality.  Yet it takes much grace from above to swim against the worldly tide and choose to obey God rather than any human authority. Only those who align themselves with the One who comes from above and gives the Spirit without measure can do it consistently.

April 21st

St. Anselm

1st Reading: Acts 5:34-42:
A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time, and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel, be careful what you are about to do to these men. Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.

So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him. After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

Gospel: Jn 6:1-15:
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

In every movement or organization, logistical problems do pop out from time to time. Sometimes they turn into a nightmare. Our gospel today presents such typical scenario. After a day’s work Jesus went to the other side of Galilee but the people could not get enough of Him. They hungered for more so they followed Him to the other side. Then their hunger became physically real. It would be a problem how to feed them. Yet every problem presents an opportunity. In this case, it was the opportunity of sharing what one had no matter how small. The poor offering of the little boy became the avenue for the feeding of the multitude. For a miracle does not require much. It is the willingness to give the little that we have that unleashes the abundant blessings of God to us.

April 22nd

1st Reading: Acts 6:1-7:
As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the Apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Gospel: Jn 6:16-21:
When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum. It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.

The Church honors the memory of St. Mark today. The author of the second gospel (which is actually the first to be written) is sometimes identified with John Mark of the Acts. He was reportedly one of the seventy disciples who were sent out in pairs to preach by Christ. Later, he was associated with Paul, Barnabas, and Peter. Mark is said to have founded the church in Alexandria and become its first bishop. According to Coptic tradition, he was martyred in 68 CE. The gospel according to Mark has a certain disarming simplicity, earthiness, and brevity.

It is as if it speaks the essentials and does not bother much about decorative detours. There is a certain immediacy to Jesus’s actions and message—the phrase “and immediately” occurs forty-two times in Mark. Mark does not bother to narrate events regarding Jesus’s birth or infancy. It begins with his ministry and ends with his ascension (or, according to some theologians, with his resurrection). Indeed, Mark’s gospel, like every other gospel, provides a unique perspective and experience of Christ. If you were asked to write a gospel, how would you portray Christ from your experience of him? What essential themes would you highlight?