Bible Diary for April 30th – May 6th

April 30th

4th Sunday of Easter
St. Pius V

1st Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41:
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

2nd Reading: 1 Pt 2:20b-25:
If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Gospel: Jn 10:1-10:
Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Heaven and salvation are concepts that defy our neat and orderly reasoning. They are too big a reality to be captured by mere words. Thus, images such as the sheepfold, with its sense of security, due to its sturdy walls and food in abundance inside, convey in a human way some understanding of such realities that cannot be contained by human concepts. This is where our capacity for symbolic thinking enters the picture. For only those who know the art of thinking beyond the literal and the rational sequential process can relish the truths that come from higher domains.

And so Jesus as the shepherd and the gate of the sheepfold invites us to contemplate the mystery of His being. It is a task that demands time, perhaps an eternity for us to grasp a bit of who He really is. Many of us have a bias towards the left brain operation that deals with the linear, sequential and rational way of the thinking process. Our right brain which is the domain of creativity is hardly utilized. If the saying “two heads are better than one” is true, then it would be to our interest to develop the weak part of our brain operations. So why don’t we make a conscious effort to develop the capacity for whole-brain thinking? There are many materials in the internet about this. Perhaps this is what we need to spice up our spiritual life by awaking our capacity for wonder and enchantment.

May 1st

St. Joseph the Worker

1st Reading: Acts 11:1-18:
The Apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem the circumcised believers confronted him, saying, ‘You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.” Peter began and explained it to them step by step, saying, “I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when in a trance I had a vision, something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me. Looking intently into it, I observed and saw the four-legged animals of the earth, the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky. I also heard a voice say to me, ‘Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.’

But I said, ‘Certainly not, sir, because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time a voice from heaven answered, ‘What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.’ This happened three times, and then everything was drawn up again into the sky. Just then three men appeared at the house where we were, who had been sent to me from Caesarea. The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.

He related to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, saying, ‘Send someone to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, who will speak words to you by which you and all your household will be saved.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning, and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, “God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”

Gospel: Jn 10:11-18:
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

Jesus employs a beautiful imagery of attention and care to those He called His own. This is easily understood by His listeners since the image of a shepherd was part and parcel of their life. Jesus uses this as a teaching device that people can emotionally relate to because it is part of their experience. This makes the teaching stick better in the minds of those whom He taught. Thus, Jesus is a Teacher who has methods in teaching and communication skills. His added sets of competencies to His formidable person made Him an effective preacher of His time. He was as human as could be when teaching something about the divine.

May 2nd

St. Athanasius

1st Reading: Acts 11:19-26:
Those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews. There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.

When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.

Gospel: Jn 10:22-30:
The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

In today’s gospel, we continue the theme from yesterday of the sheep who knows his or her shepherd from yesterday. The people who hold on to their allegiance for or against Jesus are getting impatient. He has ruffled the feathers of the powerful elites; He must be the One longed for by Israel to come. Yet they had to be sure. And so they exerted pressure on Jesus to reveal who He really was. But Jesus would not appease their doubts and uncertainties. These fence-setters would not get assurances as to whom they could safely place their bets. The fact that they still do not get it despite the words and actions of Jesus means they are not His sheep. Their eyes are blind; their ears are deaf to the many signs and affirmations that the Lord did in their midst. These seal their fate as not Jesus’ own.

May 3rd

St. Philip & St. James

1st Reading: 1 Cor 15:1-8:
I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.

Gospel: Jn 14:6-14:
Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

“How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

Director Franco Zeffirelli after filming the movie entitled Brother Sun, Sister Moon, once said, “I discovered Francis, I discovered Christ.” Francis of Assisi succeeded in imitating Christ. He became a living image of Jesus as described in the gospels. The movie director came to know more about Christ when he was filming the life of St. Francis for Hollywood. Jesus tries to convince his disciples to know more about himself, because the more they know him, the more they will know the Father. Jesus serves as their tangible bridge to the Father.

The Father in heaven is accessible only through Christ. The disciples must believe in Jesus’ claim. They do not have to argue or to prove it with their reasoning or experimentation. All they have to do is to follow him, learn more about him as they journey with him. Jesus is still in the process of revealing everything about the Father. We learn more about Jesus and the Father, when we follow Jesus in real time. Movies about Jesus in real time can help, but we can know him more when we live our faith guided by his teachings as preached by our Church.

May 4th

1st Reading: Acts 13:13-25:
From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and arrived at Perga in Pamphylia. But John left them and returned to Jerusalem. They continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the sabbath they entered into the synagogue and took their seats. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the synagogue officials sent word to them, “My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”

So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said, “Fellow children of Israel and you others who are God-fearing, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm he led them out, and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert. When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance at the end of about four hundred and fifty years. After these things he provided judges up to Samuel the prophet.

“Then they asked for a king. God gave them Saul, son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. Then he removed him and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish. From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.'”

Gospel: Jn 13:16-20:
When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me. From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Doing service to assure the comfort of others is not a menial task. It is a good task, something that each of us should think about. If we but from time to time think of doing something for the good of others, the world would be a better place than it is right now. Jesus showed us the impulse that must underlie our service to others. It should be grounded on a love that does not feel diminished by humility. For humility as a virtue, does not humiliate. Only false humility does that. Humble service, if taken to heart, assures our blessedness. For it is not something easy. Only those with great spiritual strength have the capacity to do and sustain such an act.

May 5th

1st Reading: Acts 13:26-33:
When Paul came to Antioch in Pisidia, he said in the synagogue: “My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent. The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him, and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets that are read sabbath after sabbath. For even though they found no grounds for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him put to death, and when they had accomplished all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb.

“But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are now his witnesses before the people. We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our fathers he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.”

Gospel: Jn 14:1-6:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Saying goodbye is not always easy. That is why Jesus tells His disciples that His going away for a while will actually benefit them. He will prepare their rooms in His Father’s house. Then He will return to take them with Him. This might blunt the pain of separation but it does not succeed in eliminating the sadness that His parting will cause. Thomas himself expressed the doubts of his peers, they might not be able to know the way to follow Jesus when He leaves. And so Jesus has to assure them of His abiding love for them. He Himself will ensure that they will get to the place where He is through Him. They might not be together in the near future, but their unity, forged in love, will cut across the separation of time and space so that they will always remain together in that love.

May 6th

1st Reading: Acts 13:44-52:
On the following Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.”

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

Gospel: Jn 14:7-14:
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

“The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

People will sometimes compliment a father how his son is his spitting image. And the father finds joy in the fact that he will be perpetuated through the son. But in the case of Jesus, it is He who claims that He is the mirror image of the Father. Those who see Him, see the Father as well. This filial pride gives us a glimpse of how intimate Jesus is with His Father. Within the divine conversation the Father must have constantly assured the Son of their similarity and likeness. And the Son seeing the fact itself as truth is confident enough to claim this with His disciples. We can only surmise how tenderness and intimacy is expressed within the Godhead, but one thing is clear at least. You are only happy to be the mirror of somebody else’s features, gestures and habits if you truly love that person. It will not be a burden at all but an honor.