Bible Diary for June 9th – 15th

June 9th

St. Ephrem

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: Rom 8:8-17:
So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God. Yet, your existence is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to him. But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death, as a consequence of sin, the spirit is life and holiness. 11 And, if the Spirit of him, who raised Jesus from the dead, is within you, he, who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead, will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, he will do it, through his Spirit, who dwells within you. Then, brothers, let us leave the flesh and no longer live according to it.

If not, we will die. Rather, walking in the spirit, let us put to death the body’s deeds, so that we may live. All those who walk in the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God. Then, no more fear: you did not receive a spirit of slavery, but the spirit that makes you sons and daughters, and every time, we cry, “Abba! (this is Dad!) Father!” the Spirit assures our spirit, that we are sons and daughters of God. If we are children, we are heirs, too. Ours will be the inheritance of God, and we will share it with Christ; for, if we now suffer with him, we will also share glory with him.

Gospel: John 14:15-16, 23b-26:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments; and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, Jesus answered him. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him; But if anyone does not love me, he will not keep my words; and these words that you hear are not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. I told you all this while I am still with you. From now on the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I have told you.

The Spirit enables us to see beyond race, gender, social status and religion. He can unite us all who are different from one another. The Spirit comes as Jesus promised before his ascension. It may well be helpful if you recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in your heart and in the people who interact with you with love and devotion. Awareness of his presence among us lead us to renew ourselves and to respect and care for one another. Nobody monopolizes the Holy Spirit. Lord, help me feel the presence of the Holy Spirit within me. Help me also recognize his presence in other people who fear you. Give me the courage, wisdom and strength to communicate the good news to other people and to be one always with my fellow believers.

June 10th

Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

1st Reading: 2 Cor 1:1-7:
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: Mt 5:1-12:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. He sat down and his disciples gathered around him. Then he spoke and began to teach them: “Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land. Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God. Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. For that is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.“

In Matthew, the 8 Beatitudes is the first of the teachings of Jesus when he starts his prophetic ministry in Galilee. The Beatitudes is also an appropriate beginning of his series of long discourses to the crowds. Towards the end of Matthew’s gospel, the beatitudes will be reechoed in the Last Judgment. The purpose of religion, discipleship or following Jesus is transformation. The desired transformation is how each follower shows mercy and compassion to the poor and the needy till the end. Religion is not so much in the pompous liturgical celebrations, correct doctrines and belonging to the true church, but the actual practice of it.

Each Christian should seek then to become poor in spirit, to mourn because something is wrong, to become gentle, to hunger for justice, to be merciful, etc. The Beatitudes is intimately connected with the corporal works of mercy. True religion is best practiced in serving the poor in the peripheries, binding their wounds, and making them feel they are loved by God, bringing them the Word of God and being present among them. Surely God will consider us fortunate and blessed. He will welcome us into his kingdom at the end.

June 11th

St. Barnabas

1st Reading: Acts 11:21b-26; 12:1-3:
In those days 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.

Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.

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.

Jesus follows up that “little while” when he says “when that day comes.” He anticipates what will happen to the disciples when he leaves them. They will not know what to ask. Jesus assures them that their prayers will be granted if done in his Father’s name. Jesus repeats “when that day comes” but he makes a different twist. He revises what he previously said, “You will ask in my name.” He anticipates that the Father will take care of their needs, without him interceding for them. In effect, the Father will consider them his children, like what he has done to Jesus.

We the disciples are assured that God is listening to us. Jesus’ bodily presence is not necessary to be loved by the Father. He is a responsible God who takes care of those who believe in him. Faith is crucial to secure our well-being. Without taking seriously the purpose of Jesus’ coming to this world, without believing him as the Father’s Son, we cannot be assured of God’s salvation which God entitles only to those who trust in him. Each disciple should develop a personal relationship with God and sense of belonging to the community of faith.

June 12th

1st Reading: 2 Cor 3:4-11:
Brothers and sisters:
Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, was so glorious that the children of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit be glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation was glorious, the ministry of righteousness will abound much more in glory. Indeed, what was endowed with glory has come to have no glory in this respect because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was going to fade was glorious, how much more will what endures be glorious.

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.

Jesus clarifies that he comes not to abolish the law but to fulfill it or bring it to completion. The Ten Commandments and some other laws are still valid. Jesus does not encourage violation of laws or tinkering with them. The other name of keeping the commandments is obedience. Obedience to the Word of God is an important trait of a Christ. It is the hallmark of Christian discipleship which is communitarian. As belonging to a community of faith living the beatitudes, each disciple must obey the laws that keep the community in order.

He/she must believe that they come from God. Each Christian must equally pay attention to its details. God’s words cannot be followed in an abstract way. Obedience should be shown in some tangible ways, like teaching others to do the same. We know more about the laws when we go over the whole discourses of Jesus, especially about the Last Judgment, when he enumerates the corporal works of mercy like sharing food to the hungry and taking care of the needy.

June 13th

St. Anthony of Padua

1st Reading: 2 Cor 3:15 – 4:1, 3-6:
Brothers and sisters:
To this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over the hearts of the children of Israel, but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Therefore, since we have this ministry through the mercy shown us, we are not discouraged. And even though our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled for those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they may not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus. For God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.

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.

Surpassing the righteousness of the lawyers and the Pharisees is a tall order coming from Jesus Christ. Those spiritual leaders of Israel are far above the many followers of Jesus in many respects. They have been trained to interpret every sentence or word in the Hebrew Bible. Knowing more about the meaning of the sacred scriptures gives them the advantage of becoming good practitioners of religion. The limited knowledge of the common people makes them do only that much. Can Jesus’ disciples really surpass the sense of right and wrong of the experts?

Yes. They can do more than sticking only to the interpretations of the experts. The disciples do not need to be scholars to do it. Jesus asks from his disciples to do doable things like making peace with their brothers whom they have offended. If they humble themselves, they can easily do that. They must be quick to reconcile with others whom they gravely offended. Christians cannot do much when imprisoned because of failure to be reconciled with those who have filed a case against them. Christians must not neglect the basic need to show respect in speech, to be peacemaker and be reconciled with others.

June 14th

1st Reading: 2 Cor 4:7-15:
Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, AI believed, therefore I spoke,” we too believe and therefore speak, knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence. Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Gospel: Mt 5:27-32:
Jesus said to his disciples: “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.”

Adultery is understood as committed when one makes love with another who is not his or her legitimate wife or husband. Here Jesus says adultery is already committed when one looks at another lustfully. Jesus raises the standard of how to look at one another from the point of view of God. Jesus teaches that other people, not only women, are not sex objects. They are humans in need of respect and God’s mercy. We treat one another with the inherent dignity we have. It should not be compromised. To prevent from falling into temptation, Jesus proposes a hard saying, which of course, cannot be taken literally.

Remove what makes you commit sin. It can be one’s eyes or hands. Why? Because punishment is severe. It is hell. Jesus is also against divorce. He does not like breakdown of marriages, a sacred institution since the beginning of human life. One cannot take a partner and separate from him or her and marries another just like that. We can avoid marital problems if the parties are prepared to make lifelong commitment, by listening to the teachings of Christ and experts in family life. Jesus wants relationships not to foul up.

June 15th

1st Reading: 2 Cor 5:14-21:
Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Gospel: Mt 5:33-37:
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have also heard that people were told in the past: Do not break your oath; an oath sworn to the Lord must be kept. But I tell you this: do not take oaths. Do not swear by the heavens, for they are God’s throne; nor by the earth, because it is his foot stool; nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great king. Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything else you say comes from the evil one.“

Jesus is aware of what people are expected to do when taking oath. They must do it. They must be serious about it. But Jesus unexpectedly does not want his disciples even to make oaths or promises with all the big props like heaven, earth, Jerusalem or small one like the hair. His followers are supposed to know what they are committed to. They should stand by their simple “Yes” or “No.” They should simply do it. One should not say “Yes” when he has no intention of doing it. One should also not say “No” when later he wants to do it. Christians should not make false or mixed signals to avoid confusion. Confusion is the work of the devil.

Too bad that our culture forces us to commit to something which we are not convinced of. We participate in activities which at first we have not enlisted ourselves, causing confusion in our activities. Christians should be clear and decisive when making or not making commitments to avoid false expectations. Christians should make good of their commitments to serve the church. It is uncharitable to disappear after declaring in public our availability to serve.