Bible Diary for May 16th – 22nd

May 16th

7th Sunday of Easter
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

1st Reading: Acts 1:1–11:
In the first part of my work, Theophilus, I wrote of all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he ascended to heaven. But first he had instructed through the Holy Spirit the apostles he had chosen. After his passion, he presented himself to them, giving many signs that he was alive; over a period of forty days he appeared to them and taught them concerning the kingdom of God. Once when he had been eating with them, he told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the fulfillment of the Father’s promise about which I have spoken to you: John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit within a few days.”

When they had come together, they asked him, “Is it now that you will restore the kingdom of Israel?” And he answered, “It is not for you to know the time and the steps that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth.”

After Jesus said this, he was taken up before their eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight. While they were still looking up to heaven where he went, suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen him go there.”

2nd Reading: Eph 4:1–13:
Brothers and sisters: Therefore I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient, and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep among you the unity of Spirit through bonds of peace. Let there be one body and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God, the Father of all, who is above all and works through all and is in all. But to each of us divine grace is given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Therefore it is said: When he ascended to the heights, he brought captives and gave his gifts to people. He ascended, what does it mean but that he had also descended to the lower parts of the world? He himself who went down, then ascended far above all the heavens to fill all things. As for his gifts, to some he gave to be apostles, to others prophets, or even evangelists, or pastors and teachers. So he prepared those who belong to him for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Gospel: Mk 16:15–20:
Then he (Jesus) told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned. Signs like these will accompany those who have believed: in my name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took his place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

The mandate of Jesus after he ascended is: “proclaim the Good News to all creation.” Truly God wanted that all his children and all his creation would be fully renewed and commune as one with him in heaven. This invites us to use God’s creation according to its purpose. How do you value the environment, money, prestige and even sex? Lord, cure us of our maladies and addictions. Help us to rise above our human frailties and make us your true stewards of your creation. Amen. Throw garbage properly. Fight against illegal logging and reckless mining! Be responsible managers of your treasurers and even sexual urges! Nurture creativity and be productive!

May 17th

1st Reading: Acts 19:1–8:
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples whom he asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered, “We have not even heard that anyone may receive the Holy Spirit.” Paul then asked, “What kind of baptism have you received?” And they answered, “The baptism of John.” Paul then explained, “John’s baptism was for conversion, but he himself said they should believe in the one who was to come, and that one is Jesus.”

Upon hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Paul laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came down upon them; and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of them in all. Paul went into the synagogue and for three months he preached and discussed there boldly, trying to convince them about the kingdom of God.

Gospel: Jn 16:29–33:
The disciples said to him, “Now you are speaking plainly and not in veiled language! Now we see that you know all things, even before we question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “You say that you believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have told you all this, so that in me you may have peace. You will have trouble in the world; but, courage! I have overcome the world.”

The laying on of hands is a common practice among Catholics, Presbyterians and LSD’s. It invokes ritually the Holy Spirit during baptisms and confirmations, healing services, blessings, and ordination of priests, ministers, elders, deacons and other church officers. Recently, Reiki (RAY-kee), a technique in which practitioners massage a person to relish the spiritual and universal life energy to reduce stress or bring healing, came to a head-on with US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Reiki originated in Japan in the late 1800s by Mikao Usui. This form of prayerful therapy has become a worldwide alternative to medicines.

The laying on of hands by itself has no power. Its result doesn’t depend on human will. It is given to some chosen few “charismatic” persons. Charisma can either be an attraction that can inspire devotion or a divine gift to heal. As always, there is a danger that the peripheral can overshadow the essential. An overemphasis on charismatic emotions and non-liturgical practices, such as speaking in tongues, spiritual therapy, charismatic songs and laying on of hands, runs the risk of focusing on the non-essential as a substitute to communion with Christ in the Eucharist. Philosophically, it’s stressing too much the accident over substance.

May 18th

St. John I

1st Reading: Acts 20:17–27:
From Miletus Paul sent word to Ephesus, summoning the elders of the Church. When they came to him, he addressed them, “You know how I lived among you from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, how I served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that the Jews caused me. You know that I never held back from doing anything that could be useful for you; I spoke publicly and in your homes and I urged Jews and non-Jews alike to turn to God and believe in our Lord Jesus. But now I am going to Jerusalem, chained by the Spirit, without knowing what will happen to me there.

“Yet in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that imprisonment and troubles await me. Indeed I put no value on my life, if only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, to announce the good news of God’s grace. I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom of God will ever see me again. Therefore I declare to you this day that my conscience is clear with regard to all of you. For I have spared no effort in fully declaring to you God’s will.”

Gospel: Jn 17:1–11a:
Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to your Son, that the Son may give glory to you. You have given him power over all humanity, so that he may give eternal life to all those you entrusted to him. For this is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and the One you sent, Jesus Christ. I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do. Now, Father, give me, in your presence, the same glory I had with you before the world began. I have made your name known to those you gave me from the world.

“They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they kept your word. And now they know that whatever you entrusted to me, is indeed from you. I have given them the teaching I received from you, and they accepted them, and know in truth that I came from you; and they believe that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those who belong to you, and whom you have given to me. Indeed all I have is yours, and all you have is mine; and now they are my glory. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I come to you.”

Jesus glorified God in many ways: 1) he finished the work God gave him and revealed God’s power in the world. “God has visited His people.” (Lk 7:1-17); 2) through the cross, the apex of Jesus’ glorification of God, Jesus’ mission has been accomplished. At Judas’ betrayal, Jesus uttered, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him” (13:31). The crucifixion defines what glory is. (Craig R. Koester) For many the cross is a symbol of suffering. Coming from Mass, a man once at home lifted up his wife.

The woman asked, “Why?” The husband said he heard the priest saying to carry your cross. During the first two centuries of Christianity, the cross was an unpopular Christian iconography, because it portrays a shameful and gruesome way of criminal execution. It was only in the second centuries that cross came to be associated with Christ and became a sacred icon. A little boy said that the cross is a “plus sign.” Indeed, we can glorify God as Jesus did through our cross. Per aspera ad astra (Through difficulties to the stars). The cross is sweeter after going through difficulties (dulcius ex asperis).

May 19th

1st Reading: Acts 20:28–38:
Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has placed into your care. Shepherd the Church of the Lord that he has won at the price of his own blood. I know that after I leave, ruthless wolves will come among you and not spare the flock. And from among you, some will arise corrupting the truth and inducing the disciples to follow them. Be on the watch, therefore, remembering that for three years, night and day, I did not cease to warn everyone even with tears. Now I commend you to God and to his grace-filled word, which is able to make you grow and gain the inheritance that you shall share with all the saints. I have not looked for anyone’s silver, gold or clothing.

You yourselves know that these hands of mine have provided for both my needs and the needs of those who were with me. In every way I have shown you that by working hard one must help the weak, remembering the words that the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving.’” After this discourse, Paul knelt down with them and prayed. Then they all began to weep and threw their arms around him and kissed him. They were deeply distressed because he had said that they would never see him again. And they went with him even to the ship.

Gospel: Jn 17:11b–19:
Holy Father, keep those you have given me in your name, so that they may be one, as we also are. When I was with them, I kept them safe in your name; and not one was lost, except the one who was already lost, and in this the Scripture was fulfilled. And now I come to you; in the world I speak these things, so that those whom you gave me, might have joy—all my joy within themselves.

I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world, I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. I have sent them into the world as you sent me into the world; and for their sake, I go to the sacrifice by which I am consecrated, so that they too may be consecrated in truth.

Quispiam est lucrum ut interdum est perditum. (Something is gained when something is lost.) “When you part from your friend, you grieve not: For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.” (Kahlil Gibran) These two saying remind us that we are humans not animal. What?! Yes, because animals don’t consciously feel the angst of absence of a loved one. (Though research scientists argue that animals possess basic emotions such as fear and anger, yet evidence shows that animal response is mechanistically programmed to act with certain stimuli.)

When one feels distraught, deserted and depressed, what is the normal response? The leading causes of alcoholism or drug addiction are family influence, psychological problem, loneliness and peer pressure. These causes are aggravated by an easy access to drugs and alcohol. But these make one’s vulnerability worse. When brokenness reveals our humanness, humanity needs the divine to be whole again. Study shows a strong connection between religious involvement and healing. (D. Meinz) Dr. Levin said that religion’s emphasis on healthy behaviors, supportive relationships and hope impacts one’s overall health. (God, Faith, and Health, Jeff Levin, M.D.)

May 20th

St. Bernardine of Siena

1st Reading: Acts 22:30; 23:6–11:
The next day the commander wanted to know for certain the charges the Jews were making against Paul. So he released him from prison and called together the High Priest and the whole Council; and they brought Paul down and made him stand before them. Paul knew that part of the Council were Sadducees and others Pharisees; so he spoke out in the Council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee. It is for the hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial here.” At these words, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the whole assembly was divided.

For the Sadducees claim that there is neither resurrection, nor angels nor spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all these things. Then the shouting grew louder, and some teachers of the Law of the Pharisee party protested, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Maybe a spirit or an angel has spoken to him.” With this the argument became so violent that the commander feared that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He therefore ordered the soldiers to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him back to the fortress. That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Courage! As you have borne witness to me here in Jerusalem, so must you do in Rome.”

Gospel: Jn 17:20–26:
I pray not only for these. but also for those who through their word will believe in me. May they all be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you. May they be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that you have sent me, and that I have loved them, just as you loved me.

Father, since you have given them to me, I want them to be with me where I am, and see the glory you gave me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. As I revealed your name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I also may be in them.

According to the Bible, God made many surprise visits. The results were miraculous. Nebuchadnezzar, pagan king, became God’s agent in liberating the Hebrews. Samson’s mother was barren, so was Elizabeth, and Mary was a virgin. The Pharisees and Sadducees despised Christ’s disciples. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, for it would mean the end of Roman and conquerors’ monetary assistance. The Pharisees, rebels against the Romans, hold on to the resurrection – the end of tyranny.

Though the Pharisees had ulterior motives in defense of Paul, it became a blessing in disguise. When my health problems and financial woes became harrowing, I said literally, “Unless I put my hands into his side, I would not believe.” A woman asked a guru: “Teach me to pray for joy, for pity’s sake – I’ve suffered so much that I cannot bear. To think of future grief – give me some prayer. To murmur every day.” He replied, “How many years I wondered far and wide. Until I found the fortress that you seek – It is the knee, bend it, accept, be meek; I found no other way – this remedy. And only this, will cure you of your misery.”

May 21st

St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions

1st Reading: Acts 25:13b–21:
King Agrippa and his sister Bernice arrived in Caesarea to greet Festus. As they were to stay there several days, Festus told the king about Paul’s case and said to him, “We have here a man whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews accused him and asked me to sentence him. I told them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over a man without giving him an opportunity to defend himself in front of his accusers. So they came and I took my seat without delay on the tribunal and sent for the man.

When the accusers had the floor, they did not accuse him of any of the crimes that I was led to think he had committed; instead they quarreled with him about religion and about a certain Jesus who has died but whom Paul asserted to be alive. I did not know what to do about this case, so I asked Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem to be tried there. But Paul appealed to be judged by the emperor. So I ordered that he be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.”

Gospel: Jn 21:15–19:
After they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Look after my sheep.” And a third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus then said, “Feed my sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.” Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And he added, “Follow me!”

Moral injury, very much related to PTSD, occurs when one transgresses the basic moral beliefs and expectations. Peter failed miserably from what was expected of him. Jesus, as a psychiatrist par excellence, did not blame Peter. Instead, he debriefed Peter. Debriefing follows an experience to determine what went wrong. Part of this process is to relive the event, to sit in Cinderella, “little ashes” for purification, like what Native Indians do in smudging ritual. One has to go through “the ashes” of charcoal fire and be debriefed for healing. Peter had failed the first time he went by the charcoal fire. While warming himself by the charcoal fire, he denied Jesus three times.

Through this second “charcoal fire,” Jesus wanted to be sure that Peter would not fail, if he has an ardent Love. Again, the questions about Peter’s love were covertly asked three times. Suffering is not a punishment, as it was conceived in antiquity. Job suffered to manifest his righteousness. Suffering is corrective like debriefing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is imperative to go through the cause of suffering no matter if it is painful, otherwise the sufferer will perpetually live in the past.

May 22nd

St. Rita of Cascia

1st Reading: Acts 28:16–20, 30–31:
Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house with the soldier who guarded him. After three days, Paul called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered, he said to them: “Brothers, though I have not done anything against our people or against the traditions of our fathers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to set me free, for they saw nothing in my case that deserved death.

But the Jews objected, so I was forced to appeal to Caesar without the least intention of bringing any case against my own people. Therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I bear these chains.” Paul stayed for two whole years in a house he himself rented, where he received without any hindrance all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.

Gospel: Jn 21:20–25:
Peter looked back and saw that the disciple Jesus loved was following as well, the one who had reclined close to Jesus at the supper, and had asked him, “Lord, who is to betray you?” On seeing him, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until I come, is that any concern of yours? Follow me!”

Because of this the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to Peter, “He will not die,” but, “Suppose I want him to remain until I come back, what concern is that of yours?” It is this disciple who testifies about the things and has written these things down, and we know that his testimony is true. But Jesus did many other things; if all were written down, I think the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

“It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.” (Aeschylus) The Latin translation of envy is nonsight, a blindness to what one has. An envious person has no self-worth. He doesn’t notice what he possesses, but he also wants to deprive others of what they have. An artist depiction of envy shows a woman’s bulging eyes conveying fear and distress. (Théodore Géricault, Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy or the Hyena of the Salpêtrière) The Bible is teeming with envious characters, Cain envied Abel, Saul envied David. In the classic play Snow White, the Queen is envious of Snow White’s youth and beauty and wants to kill her so she could again be the “fairest of them all.”

Jesus wants Peter to think first of his mission before getting concerned with other things. Charity begins at home. Put your own “house” in order first and then help others. This is true also with one looking at the speck in other’s eyes, but doesn’t see the dirt in their own eyes. “What we all tend to complain about most in other people are those things we don’t like about ourselves.” (William Wharton)