Bible Diary for April 17th – 23rd
Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord
1st Reading: Acts 10:34a, 37-43:
Peter then spoke to them, “No doubt you have heard of the event that occurred throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus, the Nazorean with the Holy Spirit, and power. He went about doing good, and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with him; we are witnesses of all that he did throughout the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem itself.
“Yet, they put him to death, by hanging him on a wooden cross. But God raised him to life on the third day, and let him manifest himself, not to all the people, but to the witnesses that were chosen beforehand by God—to us, who ate and drank with him after his resurrection from death. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to bear witness, that he is the one appointed by God, to judge the living and the dead. All the prophets say of him, that everyone who believes in him has forgiveness of sins, through his name.”
2nd Reading: Col 3:1-4:
So then, if you are risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on earthly things. For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, reveals himself, you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Gospel: Jn 20:1-9:
Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.” Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat. The napkin, which had been around his head, was not lying flat like the other linen cloths, but lay rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed. Scripture clearly said that Jesus must rise from the dead, but they had not yet understood that.
In today’s first reading we are told that after the resurrection, God had Jesus “manifest himself not to all the people, but to the witnesses that were chosen beforehand by God.” Now we can wonder why Jesus did not show himself to all the people. Would this not have been a quick way to convince the people of his divinity and to have them spread that Good News almost instantly throughout the world? Did Jesus not miss a golden opportunity then for a PR major success? That is a quite legitimate question. Why did Jesus show himself to people who were already well disposed toward him, his disciples, and not to skeptical multitudes? The answer to that question is simple.
A public demonstration of his divinity would not have produced a freely-given faith in him. It would have produced an air-tight argument leaving no space for freedom of choice. It would have been like raping the people’s mind, a brutal take-over. But God respects his creatures too much to treat them in such a cavalier way. He wants his creatures to have just enough light and just enough darkness for them to give him their hearts without constraint. God is a gentleman. Christ did not make a big public splash which would have forced the people to believe in him. This would not have allowed for a freely-given act of faith. God is always respectful of us. Let us thank Christ for his tact in asking us to believe in him. While debating an issue today, let us not try to bulldoze people into agreeing with us.
1st Reading: Acts 2:14, 22-33:
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and, with a loud voice, addressed them, “Fellow Jews and all foreigners now staying in Jerusalem, listen to what I have to say. Fellow Israelites, listen to what I am going to tell you about Jesus of Nazareth. God accredited him and through him did powerful deeds and wonders and signs in your midst, as you well know. You delivered him to sinners to be crucified and killed, and, in this way, the purpose of God, from all times, was fulfilled. But God raised him to life and released him from the pain of death; because it was impossible for him to be held in the power of death.
David spoke of him when he said: I saw the Lord before me at all times; he is by my side, that I may not be shaken. Therefore, my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; my body, too, will live in hope. Because you will not forsake me in the abode of the dead, nor allow your Holy One to experience corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life, and your presence will fill me with joy. Friends, I don’t need to prove that the patriarch David died and was buried; his tomb is with us to this day.
But he knew, that God had sworn to him, that one of his descendants would sit upon his throne and, as he was a prophet, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah. So he said, that he would not be left in the region of the dead, nor would his body experience corruption. This Messiah is Jesus; and we are all witnesses that God raised him to life. He has been exalted at God’s right side; and the Father has entrusted the Holy Spirit to him; this Spirit, he has just poured upon us, as you now see and hear.
Gospel: Mt 28:8-15:
In fear, yet with great joy, the women left the tomb and ran to tell the news to his disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them on the way and said, “Rejoice!” The women approached him, embraced his feet and worshiped him. But Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid! Go and tell my brothers to set out for Galilee; there, they will see me.” As the women proceeded on their way, some of the guards went in to the city, and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests met with the elders, and decided to give the soldiers a large sum of money, with this order, “Say that his disciples came by night while you were asleep, and stole the body of Jesus. If Pilate comes to know of this, we will explain the situation and keep you out of trouble.” The soldiers accepted the money and did as they were told. This story has circulated among the Jews until this day.
We all know how the experience of falling in love can change a person drastically. For example, here we have a young man called Raymond. He is nondescript and rather timid, what we call the “mousy” type of person, shy and ineffectual. But one day Raymond falls in love with a girl who returns his love. From then on Raymond loses his grey countenance. He becomes alive, animated. His eyes shine. He laughs and jokes with everybody. He dares do a thousand things he never dared do before. Such is the power of love. Well, a similar transformation came over Peter and his companions, as we see in today’s first reading.
Only a few minutes before, Peter was holed up in the upper room, with doors locked “for fear of the Jews” (Jn 20:19), afraid for his life like a scared rabbit. But now we see him boldly proclaiming the Resurrection and, even more boldly, accusing the crowd of Jesus’ murder. What changed Peter so radically? Love. The Holy Spirit is essentially the love uniting the Father and the Son. And that eternal love has now invaded Peter’s heart and has changed him forever. May the same blessed invasion happen to us all!
1st Reading: Acts 2:36-41:
Let Israel, then, know for sure, that God has made Lord and Christ this Jesus, whom you crucified.” When they heard this, they were deeply troubled. And they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What shall we do, brothers?” Peter answered: “Each of you must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven. Then, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise of God was made to you and your children, and to all those from afar, whom our God may call.” With many other words Peter gave the message; and appealed to them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So, those who accepted his word were baptized; some three thousand persons were added to their number that day.
Gospel: Jn 20:11-18:
Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent down to look inside. She saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him.” As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and answered him, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned, and said to him, “Rabboni!”—which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: I am ascending to my Father, who is your Father, to my God, who is your God.” So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me.”
In today’s gospel reading two details cry out for comment. First, the translation, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father” is about as inept as a bad translation can ever be. The Greek text has mē haptou: “do not” followed by an Imperative Present. Now in all the modes other than the Indicative, the normal tense used is the Aorist. When the Present tense is used, this suggests either intensity or duration, and so, the meaning of mē haptou is clearly: do not keep holding on to me. This is followed by a “because” (gar) having what is called among experts in Greek “a delayed effect.” The meaning of the sentence thus becomes: “Stop holding on to me.
True, (you may want to do so) because I have not yet ascended to my Father (and now, therefore, is the time for intimacy). But (instead of prolonging this intimacy, I have a mission for you), go to my brothers…” The second detail needing comment is the simple fact that, as long as Mary is addressed as “Woman,” (a generic address valid for all women at the time of Jesus), she is in the dark. But when Jesus calls her by her name, her soul is flooded with light. Each of us is called by name, for each of us is unique in God’s eyes. Do we believe this?
1st Reading: Acts 3:1-10:
Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer. And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.
Gospel: Lk 24:13-35:
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his Body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
It is interesting to observe how male chauvinism has had such an impact on the life of the Church (remember: five times more males canonized) and our understanding of Scripture (v.g. Mary Magdelene for centuries branded as a prostitute by Churchmen when we now know that she was nothing of the sort). Well, today’s gospel reading shows once more male chauvinism raising its ugly head. For there we hear of two disciples of Jesus walking towards Emmaus. One of them is named Cleophas. We learn later that these two men (according to the unanimous interpretation of exegetes—most of whom are men) live together. Are they brothers? Are they gay?
But this episode actually involves, not two men, but a normal couple: Cleophas and his wife, Mary. For we know that Cleophas had a wife and that her name was Mary, because she is named with other women at the foot of the cross: “Standing by cross of Jesus were Mary, the wife of Cleophas” (Jn 19:25). So both of these were disciples of Jesus and now, disillusioned after the crucifixion, they are returning home. Ask a hundred Christians about this episode and almost all will speak of two male disciples. Why this constant bias? Do women not form half the population of the world?
1st Reading: Acts 3:11-26:
As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John, all the people hurried in amazement toward them in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.” When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, “You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
“And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you. Now I know, brothers and sisters, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.
“For Moses said: A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people. Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed. For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
Gospel: Lk 24:35-48:
Then the two told what had happened on the road to Emmaus, and how Jesus had made himself known, when he broke bread with them. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood in their midst. (He said to them, “Peace to you.”) In their panic and fright they thought they were seeing a ghost, but he said to them, “Why are you upset, and how does such an idea cross your minds? Look at my hands and feet, and see that it is I myself! Touch me, and see for yourselves, for a ghost has no flesh and bones as I have!” (As he said this, he showed his hands and feet.) Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, as they were astonished; so he said to them, “Have you anything to eat?”
And they gave him a piece of broiled fish. He took it, and ate it before them. Then Jesus said to them, “Remember the words I spoke to you when I was still with you: Everything written about me in the law of Moses, in the prophets and in the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “So it was written: the Messiah had to suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead. Then repentance and forgiveness in his name would be proclaimed to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.
Most Christians imagine that the Risen Jesus could pass through solid walls and locked doors—somewhat like in movies we see disembodied people or ghosts pass through solid obstacles. But this representation of things is questionable, as we can surmise from today’s gospel reading. For there we hear Jesus saying to his disciples: “Touch me… a ghost has no flesh and bones as I have.” This suggests that the body of the Risen Jesus was a solid mass, not a whisp of disembodied ghost. But then, how could such a solid mass go through solid walls and locked doors? Isn’t that a physical impossibility?
A more profound understanding of the Risen Jesus goes like this. By his resurrection Jesus filled the whole created cosmos with his physical-spiritual body, making him present everywhere and at all times. This is suggested by the apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “… the Church, which is his body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way” (Eph 1:23). This thought is consoling for us. By his resurrection Jesus is no longer confined to a specific cubic space in Palestine. He is everywhere, right next to our very heart.
1st Reading: Acts 4:1-12:
After the crippled man had been cured, while Peter and John were still speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them, disturbed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They laid hands on Peter and John and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word came to believe and the number of men grew to about five thousand. On the next day, their leaders, elders, and scribes were assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly class.
They brought them into their presence and questioned them, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them, “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
Gospel: Jn 21:1-14:
After this, Jesus revealed himself to the disciples by the Lake of Tiberias. He appeared to them in this way: Simon Peter, Thomas who was called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two other disciples were together; and Simon Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” They replied, “We will come with you.” And they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, “Friends, have you anything to eat?” They answered, “Nothing.” Then he said to them, “Throw the net on the right side of the boat and you will find something.”
When they had lowered the net, they were not able to pull it in because of the great number of fish. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” At these words, “It’s the Lord!” Simon Peter put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and jumped into the water. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish; they were not far from land, about a hundred meters. When they landed, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.”
So Simon Peter climbed into the boat and pulled the net to shore. It was full of big fish—one hundred and fifty-three—but, in spite of this, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” And not one of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” for they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and he did the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples after rising from the dead.
Like many gospel scenes, the scene in today’s gospel reading can be understood at two levels: the level of facts (what actually happened, who did what, who said what, where did the action take place, at what time, etc.), and the level of meaning or significance (what the author wants to express at a deeper level, using symbols to convey this deeper meaning). At the factual level John is recalling a miraculous catch of fish and a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus. But, since Peter is the main character of the story and Peter is the Head of the Church under Jesus, the author is telling us that Peter and his boat represent the Church symbolically.
Now, as long as the Church is working independently of Christ, it achieves nothing. But, when Christ enters the picture and Peter follows his instructions (in a great act of faith), then the Church is immensely successful. Incidentally, St. Jerome claims that Greek zoologists of his time catalogued 153 species of fish—in other words, the Church reaches all peoples of the world. One can notice, also, that John (because he is the closest friend of Jesus) is the first to recognize him. Love enables him to see what his companions cannot see.
1st Reading: Acts 4:13-21:
They were astonished at the boldness of Peter and John, considering that they were uneducated and untrained men. They recognized, also, that they had been with Jesus, but, as the man who had been cured stood beside them, they could make no reply. So they ordered them to leave the council room while they consulted with one another. They asked, “What shall we do with these men? Everyone who lives in Jerusalem knows, that a remarkable sign has been given through them, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this from spreading any further among the people, let us warn them never again to speak to anyone in the name of Jesus.”
So they called them back and charged them not to speak, or teach at all, in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Judge for yourselves, whether it is right in God’s eyes, for us to obey you, rather than God. We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Then the council threatened them once more and let them go. They could find no way of punishing them because of the people, who glorified God for what had happened; for the man who had been miraculously healed was over forty years old.
Gospel: Mk 16:9-15:
After Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary of Magdala, from whom he had driven out seven demons. She went and reported the news to his followers, who were now mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he lived, and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he showed himself in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. These men also went back and told the others, but they did not believe them. Later Jesus showed himself to the Eleven while they were at table. He reproached them for their unbelief, and hardness of heart, in refusing to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. Then he told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.
One of the greatest demonstrations of how the Holy Spirit can affect a person’s behavior is shown in how Peter was transformed by the gift of the Spirit. Before he receives the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, he is a timid, fearful, faint-hearted man—a coward, in a word. He abandons Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane and betrays him three times shortly afterwards. Even after the crucifixion is a thing of the past, Peter and his companions stay huddled in the upper room with locked doors “for fear of the Jews,” John tells us (Jn 20:19).
But when the Spirit invades Peter on the day of Pentecost, Peter becomes a changed man: from a coward he becomes a fearless witness to Jesus. With great daring after that, he addresses huge crowds and publicly blames them for the death of Jesus. Then he appears before the Sanhedrin (the land’s Supreme Court) and with perfect self-assurance refuses to bow to its injunction of silence, as we see in today’s first reading. Later on he presides the Council of Jerusalem with great authority. The Holy Spirit can transform us too, if only we are willing to let him do so.