Bible Diary for June 5th – 11th
1st Reading: Acts 2:1-11:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. And suddenly, out of the sky, came a sound, like a strong rushing wind; and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared tongues, as if of fire, which parted and came to rest upon each one of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak. Staying in Jerusalem were religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered, all excited, because each heard them speaking in his own language.
Full of amazement and wonder, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it, that we hear them in our own native language? Here are Parthians, Medes and Elamites; and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia; Pontus and Asia; Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt; and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; and visitors from Rome; both Jews and foreigners who accept Jewish beliefs, Cretians and Arabians; and all of us hear them proclaiming in our own language what God, the Savior, does.”
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13:
I tell you that nobody inspired by the Spirit of God may say, “A curse on Jesus,” as no one can say, “Jesus is the Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There is diversity of gifts, but the Spirit is the same. There is diversity of ministries, but the Lord is the same. There is diversity of works, but the same God works in all. The Spirit reveals his presence in each one with a gift that is also a service. As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptized in one Spirit, to form one body, and all of us have been given, to drink from the one Spirit.
Gospel: Jn 20:19-23:
On the evening of that day, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples, seeing the Lord, were full of joy. Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”
When we watch a live play in a theater, what do we see? Actors and actresses moving around and talking or shouting or crying on a set made of various props. That is what we see. But that is only the visible aspects of the play. We do not see who wrote that play, who published it, who produced it financially, who directed it. These are all invisible to the public. Yet, without them there would be no play, only jobless actors. Perhaps we can compare the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives to that of a stage director who makes things happen (coaches the actors, inspires them in their roles, guides them from the sidelines, reminds them of their lines, etc.) yet hardly ever shows himself out in the open.
Few of us really appreciate to what extent we depend on the Holy Spirit for everything in our Christian lives. And that is a pity for thus we ignore the One who is the Secret Lover of our souls— which, by the way, is feminine in many languages (anima, Seele, âme, etc.)–and one of the great joys of old age is to become aware of his sweet presence in us every second of our lives. Let us offer our hearts to our Secret Lover and invite him to inspire our every action. Before an important decision today, let us ask the Spirit to guide us.
Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church
1st Reading: Genesis 3:9-15, 20:
After Adam had eaten of the tree, the Lord God called to him and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” The Lord God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.
Gospel: John 19:25-34:
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately Blood and water flowed out.
1st Reading: 1 Kgs 17:7-16:
After a while, the brook dried up because no rain had fallen in the land. Then Yahweh spoke to Elijah, “Go to Zarephath of the Sidonites and stay there. I have given word to a widow there, to give you food.” So Elijah went to Zarephath. On reaching the gate of the town, he saw a widow gathering sticks. He called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called after her and said, “Bring me also a piece of bread.” But she answered, “As Yahweh your God lives, I have no bread left, but only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am just now gathering some sticks so that I may go in and prepare something for myself and my son to eat—and die.”
Elijah then said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go, and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me. Then make some for yourself and your son. For this is the word of Yahweh, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of meal shall not be emptied nor shall the jug of oil fail, until the day when Yahweh sends rain to the earth.” So she went and did as Elijah told her; and she had food for herself, Elijah and her son from that day on. The jar of flour was not emptied nor did the jug of oil fail, in accordance with what Yahweh had said through Elijah.
Gospel: Mt 5:13-16:
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It has become useless. It can only be thrown away and people will trample on it. You are the light of the world. A city built on a mountain cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and covers it; instead, it is put on a lamp stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, your light must shine before others, so that they may see the good you do, and praise your Father in heaven.
One of the functions of salt is to preserve meat from decomposing. In today’s gospel reading Jesus tells us that we, Christians, play an essential role among the peoples of the world by keeping them from spoiling, from rotting. But he also warns us about the danger of losing our saltiness, of becoming tasteless. How can that happen? By compromising with the world and its values, by becoming so much like the world that we will not be able to preserve it from decomposition. In what concrete positive ways can Christians today be salt of the earth and light of the world? By proposing the values of the Gospel and thus not letting human societies become satisfied with mediocrity.
That means proposing love instead of hate, forgiveness instead of vengeance, non-violence instead of violence, unity instead of division, generosity and service instead of selfishness, faithfulness instead of betrayal, chastity instead of promiscuity, honesty instead of dishonesty, permanent marriage instead of divorce, respect for life instead of abortion, etc. But all this should be done more by example than by moralizing sermons. We should show by our whole attitude that life is more tasty when people are honest, reliable, candid, etc.
1st Reading: 1 Kgs 18:20-39:
Ahab sent to all the children of Israel and had the prophets assemble on Mount Carmel. Elijah appealed to all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” The people, however, did not answer him. So Elijah said to the people, “I am the only surviving prophet of the Lord, and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Give us two young bulls. Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but start no fire. I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood, but shall start no fire. You shall call on your gods, and I will call on the Lord. The God who answers with fire is God.” All the people answered, “Agreed!”
Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one young bull and prepare it first, for there are more of you. Call upon your gods, but do not start the fire.” Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, they prepared it and called on Baal from morning to noon, saying, “Answer us, Baal!” But there was no sound, and no one answering. And they hopped around the altar they had prepared. When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: “Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them.
Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state until the time for offering sacrifice. But there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” When the people had done so, he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been destroyed. He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the Lord had said, “Your name shall be Israel.” He built an altar in honor of the Lord with the stones, and made a trench around the altar large enough for two measures of grain. When he had arranged the wood, he cut up the young bull and laid it on the wood.
“Fill four jars with water,” he said, “and pour it over the burnt offering and over the wood.” “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he said, and they did it a third time. The water flowed around the altar, and the trench was filled with the water. At the time for offering sacrifice, the prophet Elijah came forward and said, “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things by your command.
Answer me, Lord! Answer me, that this people may know that you, Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses.” The Lord’s fire came down and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!”
Gospel: Mt 5:17-19:
Do not think that I have come to annul the law and the prophets. I have not come to annul them, but to fulfill them. I tell you this: as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the law will change, until all is fulfilled. So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them, and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the kingdom of heaven.
Some people are indecisive by nature. They are afraid to make a choice. They always try to hedge their bets, to straddle the fence, to have their cake and eat it. They cannot take a firm stand on anything and risk their all. At the time of the prophet Elijah (9th century B.C.), the people of Israel worshipped both Yahweh, the only true God, and the false pagan god Baal. This was, of course, contrary to God’s will as clearly stated in the First Commandment (Ex 20:3).
That is why Elijah, the only prophet of Yahweh left in Israel in competition with 450 prophets of Baal, remonstrates with the people: “How long will you follow two ways at the same time?” And the dramatic scene that follows shows him scoring a public victory in favor of the one true God. Faced with demands as exacting as those of the Catholic Church (no divorce, no abortion, no vengeance, no lies, etc.), a lot of us are tempted to choose among those demands. But in today’s gospel reading Jesus warns us: “Whoever breaks the least important of these commandments…will be the least in the kingdom of heaven.” With God, no compromise is possible.
1st Reading: 1 Kgs 18:41-46:
Elijah then said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for the sound of rain is rushing in.” So Ahab went up to eat and drink. Elijah, in the meantime, went to the top of Carmel, bowed to the ground and put his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go up and look in the direction of the sea.” The man went up, looked, and said, “There is nothing.” Then Elijah said, “Go again;” and seven times he went.
At the seventh time, he perceived a little cloud, the size of a man’s hand, rising out of the sea. Elijah told him, “Go, tell Ahab: Prepare your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.” A little later the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and a strong rain fell. Ahab was riding on his way to Jezreel. As for Elijah, the hand of Yahweh was on him, and tucking his cloak in his belt, he ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
Gospel: Mt 5:20-26:
I tell you, if your sense of right and wrong is not keener than that of the Lawyers and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard, that it was said to our people in the past: Do not commit murder; anyone who murders will have to face trial. But now, I tell you: whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial. Whoever insults a brother or sister is liable, to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or sister “Fool!” is liable, of being thrown into the fire of hell.
So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there, in front of the altar; go at once, and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God. Don’t forget this: be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There, you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.
Many Christians think they sin if they feel anger. But we are not responsible for feeling spontaneously anything. Feelings are in themselves amoral. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states unambiguously, “in themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will” (n.1767). In other words, a passion such as anger, for example, is morally good if it contributes to a good action and it is morally bad if it contributes to an evil action.
Anger is a gift of God, a gift of raw energy meant for fueling our actions with intensity, force, depth. How can we fight abuses (v.g. child abuse), defend the weak (v.g. fight human trafficking) and attack tyrants without anger? Without anger we would all be like flat pancakes! However, the danger with anger is that it is an explosive force which can easily get out of control and degenerate into abusive language, insults, etc., as Jesus warns us in today’s gospel reading. But Jesus himself got angry sometimes (Mk 3:5), so anger in itself is not evil. As Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Be angry, but do not sin” (Eph 4:26).
1st Reading: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-16:
On reaching the place, he came to the cave and stayed in it. Then Yahweh said, “Go up and stand on the mount, waiting for Yahweh.” And Yahweh passed by. There was first a windstorm, wild wind which rent the mountains and broke the rocks into pieces before Yahweh, but Yahweh was not in the wind. After the storm, an earthquake, but Yahweh was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, a fire, but Yahweh was not in the fire; after the fire, the murmur of a gentle breeze. When Elijah perceived it, he covered his face with his cloak, went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then he heard a voice addressing him again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He answered, “I am burning with jealous love for Yahweh, the God of Hosts, because the Israelites have forsaken your Covenant, thrown down your altars and slain your prophets with the sword. No one is left but myself, yet they still seek my life to take it away.” Yahweh said to him, “Take the road back through the desert and go to Damascus, for you must anoint Hazael as king of Syria. You shall also anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king over Israel. And Elisha, son of Shaphat, from Abel Meholah, you shall anoint as prophet in your place.
Gospel: Mt 5:27-32:
You have heard that it was said: Do not commit adultery. But I tell you this: anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent, has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So, if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body, than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to lose a part of your body, than to have your whole body thrown into hell. It was also said: Anyone who divorces his wife, must give her a written notice of divorce. But what I tell you is this: if a man divorces his wife, except in the case of unlawful union, he causes her to commit adultery. And the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
It is a remarkable fact that, if we compare the Bible and our own lives, it seems that God gradually tempers or tones down his approaches to us—so much so that we have the impression that what he really wants in the end is a simple heart to heart encounter. In the Bible, for example, he launches his dealings with his people Israel with lightning and thunder on Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:16-19). Four centuries later, on this same Mt. Sinai the prophet Elijah encounters God as Moses encountered him. But the text insists that this time God is not in anything showy (wild wind, earthquake, fire) but in the murmur of a gentle breeze.
And, when God finally comes in person on the Mount of Beatitudes, it is as the humble carpenter of Nazareth that he presents himself. Something similar happens in our own lives. Often enough dramatic events bring us to encounter God (death of a loved one, broken romance, illness, etc.). Then, once God has our attention, things quiet down to inner consolations and desolations. This period is followed by a training in dark faith. And finally comes the period of uninterrupted intimacy through the mystical awareness that we are always in God’s arms, for “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
1st Reading: Acts 11:21b-26; 13:1-3:
The hand of the Lord was with them so that a great number believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, so they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the manifest signs of God’s favor, he rejoiced and urged them all to remain firmly faithful to the Lord; for he, himself, was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. Thus large crowds came to know the Lord. Then Barnabas went off to Tarsus, to look for Saul; and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year, they had meetings with the Church and instructed many people. It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
There were at Antioch—in the Church which was there—prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon known as Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod, and Saul. On one occasion, while they were celebrating the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have called them.” So, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Gospel: Mt 10:7-13:
Go, and proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a traveling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick: workers deserve to be compensated. When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave. When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you.
There are people who talk a lot, who like to take the front of the stage, who have a commanding presence in any group and, in general, who always manage to attract attention. But oftentimes these omnipresent figures are more “sound and fury” than anything else. They do not achieve much in reality, when you look closely at them. But there are other people who are the exact opposite. They are the “strong and silent type” (à la John Wayne in the movie “The Quiet Man”). You rarely hear them talk, but they are supremely efficient. Barnabas, the apostle we are remembering today, seems to have been this second type of man.
He is mentioned 28 times in the New Testament, yet he does not speak once (in Acts 13:46 it is obviously Paul who speaks for both of them). But he is supremely active. And, perhaps more importantly, he is an enabler, namely, he has a special gift for discerning someone‘s potential and encouraging that someone to develop his potential (Barnabas means “the encouraging one” according to Acts 4:36). In today’s first reading we see him launching the apostle Paul on the latter’s career. Are we more talkers than enablers? Or do we selflessly help people to develop their potential?