Bible Diary for May 15th – 21st
5th Sunday of Easter
St. Isidore the Farmer
1st Reading: Acts 14:21-27:
After proclaiming the gospel in that town and making many disciples, they returned to Lystra and Iconium, and on to Antioch. They were strengthening the disciples, and encouraging them to remain firm in the faith; for they said, “We must go through many trials to enter the kingdom of God.” In each church they appointed elders and, after praying and fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had placed their faith.
Then they traveled through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia. They preached the word in Perga and went down to Attalia. From there, they sailed back to Antioch, where they had first been commended to God’s grace, for the task they had now completed. On their arrival, they gathered the Church together, and told them all that God had done through them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the non-Jews.
2nd Reading: Rev 21:1-5a:
Then, I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband. A loud voice came from the throne, “Here is the dwelling of God among mortals: He will pitch his tent among them, and they will be his people; he will be God-with-them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the world that was, has passed away.” The One seated on the throne said, “See, I make all things new.”
Gospel: Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35:
When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. God will glorify him, and he will glorify him very soon. My children, I am with you for only a little while; you will look for me, but as I already told the Jews, now I tell you: where I am going you cannot come. I give you a new commandment: Love one another! Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In printing or writing, we use a pair of square brackets or parentheses to enclose a section of writing or printing that we want to isolate from the rest of the text for one reason or another. Well, in a sense we could say that most of the bible (from Gen 3 to Rev 20 inclusive) is contained between two huge brackets. Before the first bracket, we see how the world emerges from God’s hands, perfectly good and harmonious, without any pain or dissonance.
If Adam and Eve (and we after them) had accepted to receive their happiness from God’s hands instead of greedily wanting to secure it on their own terms, this world would never have known suffering, conflict, disharmony with nature, and death. But with the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen 3) everything is changed and, as Paul tells us, “all creation is groaning in labor” (Rom 1:22), is sending a low-intensity distress signal throughout history. But God cannot tolerate such a situation to go on indefinitely.
At the end of time he will close the horrible brackets of our sorry world and renew everything in the image of the first Paradise: no more tears, no more death—all that has passed away. And God finally brings about his initial dream of a happy mankind. At the beginning of time God created a perfect world. Despite the fact that we ruin his world through our sins, he will finally bring about his initial dream of a happy humanity. The first three requests of the Our Father are a plea for God to manifest himself powerfully in history. Let us pray them with a renewed fervor. Let us improve our world in some small way today.
1st Reading: Acts 14:5-18:
There was an attempt in Iconium by both the Gentiles and the Jews, together with their leaders, to attack and stone Paul and Barnabas. They realized it, and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe
and to the surrounding countryside, where they continued to proclaim the Good News.
At Lystra there was a crippled man, lame from birth, who had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking, who looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, and called out in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet.” He jumped up and began to walk about. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they cried out in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in human form.” They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes,” because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, for he together with the people intended to offer sacrifice.
The Apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Men, why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways; yet, in bestowing his goodness, he did not leave himself without witness, for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.” Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.
Gospel: Jn 14:21-26:
Whoever keeps my commandments is the one who loves me. If he loves me, he will also be loved by my Father; I too shall love him and show myself clearly to him.” Judas—not Judas Iscariot—asked Jesus, “Lord, how can it be that you will show yourself clearly to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him; and we will come to him and live with 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 one who loves Jesus is the one who keeps his commandments, and also the one whom the Father will love. This is the logic of Jesus. The disciple finds his connection with the Father because of his love for Jesus shown by keeping his commandments. Jesus adds, he will clearly reveal himself to him. This logic is not readily understood by Judas, not the Iscariot. So Jesus has to repeat his statement with an additional information. He and the Father will live with him. Time and again, the devoted disciples do not understand what Jesus wants to communicate.
They have a history of not understanding. So Jesus promises them to send the Holy Spirit to help them. The Holy Spirit will teach and remind them of his teachings which they find unclear. We Christians of today, too, fail to understand God’s message to us. That is why we also fail to appreciate his gifts to us. These are none other than God’s relationship and indwelling in us. We also need the light of the Holy Spirit. Research, theological books and lively debates about him are not enough. The Holy Spirit explains God’s mysteries through our hearts.
1st Reading: Acts 14:19-28:
Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the people against them. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the town, leaving him for dead. But, when his disciples gathered around him, he stood up and returned to the town. And the next day, he left for Derbe with Barnabas. After proclaiming the gospel in that town and making many disciples, they returned to Lystra and Iconium, and on to Antioch. They were strengthening the disciples, and encouraging them to remain firm in the faith; for they said, “We must go through many trials to enter the kingdom of God.”
In each church they appointed elders and, after praying and fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had placed their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia. They preached the word in Perga and went down to Attalia. From there, they sailed back to Antioch, where they had first been commended to God’s grace, for the task they had now completed. On their arrival, they gathered the Church together, and told them all that God had done through them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the non-Jews. They spent a fairly long time there with the disciples.
Gospel: Jn 14:27-31a:
Peace be with you! My peace I give to you; not as the world gives peace do I give it to you. Do not be troubled! Do not be afraid! You heard me say, ‘I am going away, but I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you this now before it takes place, so that when it does happen you may believe. There is very little left for me to tell you, for the prince of this world is at hand, although there is nothing in me that he can claim. But see, the world must know that I love the Father, and that I do what the Father has taught me to do. Come now, let us go.
In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus tell his disciples on the eve of his death, “my peace I give to you; not as the world gives peace do I give it to you.” Here we could ask ourselves where exactly lies the difference between these kinds of peace, which Jesus opposes sharply. Well, if we look at the present situation of the world, we see that there is no World War dividing nations as we have seen twice in the Twentieth Century. And that is indeed good. And we have the United Nations, a world organization gathering all nations and providing them a forum to ventilate their grievances and aspirations in a non-violent way.
But not much has been accomplished by this forum. Nations are strongly polarized along ideological lines (socialists against capitalists) and are at loggerheads on most issues. This is merely a “balance of terror” between nuclear nations, not much more. Jesus’ peace is completely different. It rests on fraternal love, mutual trust, God’s strengthening grace. Because the hearts of Christians are at peace with God, they can be at peace with all other humans, who are seen as loved brothers and sisters.
St. John I
1st Reading: Acts 15:1-6:
Some persons, who had come from Judea to Antioch, were teaching the brothers in this way, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Because of this, there was trouble; and Paul and Barnabas had fierce arguments with them. For Paul told the people to remain as they were, when they became believers. Finally, those who had come from Jerusalem suggested that Paul and Barnabas and some others go up to Jerusalem, to discuss the matter with the apostles and elders. They were sent on their way by the Church.
As they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they reported how the non- Jews had turned to God; and there was great joy among all the brothers and sisters. On their arrival in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, the apostles and the elders, to whom they told all that God had done through them. Some believers, however, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees, stood up and said, that non-Jewish men must be circumcised and instructed to keep the law of Moses. So the apostles and elders met together to consider this matter.
Gospel: Jn 15:1-8:
I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower. If any of my branches doesn’t bear fruit, he breaks it off; and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit. You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Live in me as I live in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but has to remain part of the vine; so neither can you, if you don’t remain in me. I am the vine and you are the branches.
As long as you remain in me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not remain in me is thrown away, as they do with branches, and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask whatever you want, and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit: it is then that you become my disciples.
Today’s gospel reading is all about “bearing (much) fruit” (six times in eight verses!). Now what exactly does Jesus mean by this expression? Some Christians—the super activists among us—might spontaneously associate “bearing fruit” with being fruitfully productive, achieving tangible results (v.g. on the stock market), coming out with a new idea, making one’s mark in the financial world, setting a new fashion in clothes, creating a new kind of pizza, inventing a new time-saving device, and so on. But surely the Virgin Mary, who did nothing of the above, was far more fruitful than any human being before or after her because the fruit she bore, the fruit of her womb, was God himself.
She was eminently fruitful, but not productive in the activist sense of the word. Jesus warns us in this gospel passage that without him we can do nothing. To our activist mentality, this may seem strange, for we are aware that we can do a lot of things without ever referring to him. But these things are all useless for the Kingdom if Jesus does not inspire our action, guide it and constantly sustain it. Are we convinced that without Jesus all our busyness is just that—meaningless hustle and bustle?
1st Reading: Acts 15:7-21:
As the discussions became heated, Peter stood up and saidto them, “Brothers, you know that from the beginning, Godchose me among you, so that non-Jews could hear the GoodNews from me, and believe. God, who can read hearts, puthimself on their side, by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just ashe did to us. He made no distinction between us and them,and cleansed their hearts through faith. So, why do you wantto put God to the test? Why do you lay on the disciples, aburden that neither our ancestors nor we, ourselves, wereable to carry? We believe, indeed, that we are saved throughthe grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”
The whole assembly kept silent as they listened to Pauland Barnabas tell of all the miraculous signs and wondersthat God had done, through them, among the non-Jews.After they had finished, James spoke up, “Listen to me,brothers. Symeon has just explained how God first showedhis care, by taking a people for himself from non-Jewishnations. And the words of the prophets agree with this, forScripture says,After this I will return and rebuild the booth of David whichhas fallen; I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again. Then, therest of humanity will look for the Lord, and all the nations willbe consecrated to my Name. So says the Lord, who does todaywhat he decided from the beginning.
Because of this, I think that we should not make difficultiesfor those non-Jews who are turning to God. Let usjust tell them, not to eat food that is unclean from havingbeen offered to idols; to keep themselves from prohibitedmarriages;and not to eat the flesh of animals that have beenstrangled; or any blood. For, from the earliest times, Moseshas been taught in every place, and every Sabbath his lawsare recalled.”
Gospel: Jn 15:9-11:
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remainin my love! You will remain in my love if you keep my commandments,just as I have kept my Father’s commandmentsand remain in his love.I have told you all this, that my own joy may be in you, andyour joy may be complete.
In today’s gospel reading, as we just heard, Jesus tells us: “I have told you all this, that my own joy be in you, and your joy may be complete.” Some Christians go through life keeping, as the British say, “a stiff upper lip,” convinced that the life of a Christian, because it requires constant self-denial, needs to be sustained by a stoic composure. And this they show in their frowning faces, hunched backs, gloomy countenance.
Alas, they forget that Jesus wants us to be happy in this life, not just some day in Heaven. As Jesus specified many times: “I came that my sheep have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). “So you have pain now; but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22). “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete” (Jn 16:24). “I speak these things in the world so that they (my followers) may have my joy made complete in themselves” (Jn 17:13). And so, stoic Christians, abandon your frowns and start smiling!
St. Bernardine of Siena
1st Reading: Acts 15:22-31:
Then the apostles and elders, together with the whole Church, decided to choose representatives from among them, to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These were Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They took with them the following letter: “Greetings from the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the believers of non-Jewish birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We have heard, that some persons from among us have worried you with their discussions, and troubled your peace of mind. They were not appointed by us.
But now, it has seemed right to us, in an assembly, to choose representatives, and to send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We send you, then, Judas and Silas, who, themselves, will give you these instructions by word of mouth. We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary: You are to abstain from blood; from the meat of strangled animals; and from prohibited marriages. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” After saying good-bye, the messengers went to Antioch, where they assembled the community and handed them the letter. When they read the news, all were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.
Gospel: Jn 15:12-17:
This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead, I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learned from my Father. You did not choose me; it was I who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. This is my command, that you love one another.
If a hundred Christians were stopped on the street and asked by a curious reporter, “Who is your best friend?” how many would unhesitatingly answer, “Jesus Christ”? In today’s gospel reading Jesus declares emphatically: “You are my friends, if you do what I command you”—and his commandment is that we love one another. Now here many Christians misunderstand what Jesus means by “love” and think that Jesus expects them to have nice feelings for everybody around them, to like everybody. But, of course, it is impossible to like everybody. Some dislikes are automatic and spontaneous.
As the popular expression explains such cases, “our vibes (vibrations) are on a different frequency.” But the love spoken of by Jesus is not a feeling (although it can be accompanied by all kinds of feelings), it is a free decision of the will to treat others (we are speaking of actions here) as well as possible: do good, bless, pray for, lend money to, etc. (cf. Lk 6). If we do this to all the people we deal with, we will be obeying Jesus’ command—and we will have him as our Friend, surely the best of all friends!
St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions
1st Reading: Acts 16:1-10:
Paul traveled on, to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place, who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith, and increased in number, every day.
They traveled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. There, one night, Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision; and we understood that the Lord was calling us, to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.
Gospel: Jn 15:18-21:
If the world hates you, remember that the world hated me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you. Remember what I told you: the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know the One who sent me.
When the first man landed on the moon in 1969 and took a first step on that planet, those who watched this momentous event on television understood that this particular step on the lunar surface was one which changed history forever. With that step, the exploration of space was launched—and only God knows where it will lead to. In today’s first reading something as momentous is being described. For, if we look at a map, we will see what that reading is telling us. It is telling us that the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from making a detour through the Roman province called Asia and from going north to the province of Bithynia.
We have the distinct impression here that the Spirit is putting Paul on a direct route to—EUROPE! Until then Paul had always limited his apostolate to what we call today the Near East. But the Spirit wants the Gospel to reach the whole world, and that means for Paul to cross over to Macedonia, a province of Greece, a part of Europe. That decision of Paul changed the face of history—and, through it all, it was the Holy Spirit who was gently guiding him. Do we trust that the same Spirit can also guide our lives towards greatness?