Bible Diary for May 17th – 23rd

May 17th

6th Sunday of Easter

1st Reading: Acts 8:5–8, 14–17:
Philip went down to a town of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. All the people paid close attention to what Philip said as they listened to him, and saw the miraculous signs that he did. For, in cases of possession, the unclean spirits came out shrieking loudly. Many people, who were paralyzed or crippled, were healed. So there was great joy in that town.

Now, when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the Samaritans had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. They went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for he had not as yet come down upon any of them, since they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. So Peter and John laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

2nd Reading: 1 PT 3:15–18:
But bless the Lord Christ in your hearts. Always have an answer ready, when you are called upon, to account for your hope, but give it simply and with respect. Keep your conscience clear, so that those who slander you may be put to shame by your upright, Christian living. Better to suffer for doing good, if it is God’s will, than for doing wrong. Remember how Christ died, once, and for all, for our sins. He, the just one, died for the unjust, in order to lead us to God. In the body, he was put to death, in the spirit, he was raised to life.

Gospel: Jn 14:15–21:
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, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he is with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you.

A little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me, because I live and you will also live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 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.”

The last words we speak to our love ones before departing are usually words of tenderness, counsels and assurances. In this regard Jesus is no different from us. His humanity fully shines despite His transformation in the Resurrection. He still remains the Son of God and the Son of Mary. What is surprising is the seeming reluctance of the Lord to part ways with His own friends. This human sentiment shining through His divinity assures us that from that time onwards, one of the Trinity can understand intimately how it is to be human.

God has been inexorably linked to humanity. The world can rest in peace. There is someone like us and representing us in the Godhead. Jesus reminds us that our love for Him is shown in our obedience to His command. He has two which can be collapsed into one, that is, “love God and neighbor,” or the double law of love. Have I really loved God and neighbor or do I prefer to love one over the other? It would be good to examine our following of the Lord today and evaluate it according to the standards of the command to love.

May 18th

St. John I

1st Reading: Acts 16:11–15:
So, we put out to sea from Troas and sailed straight across to Samothrace Island; and the next day, to Neapolis. From there, we went inland to Philippi, the leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. We spent some days in that city. On the Sabbath, we went outside the city gate, to the bank of the river, where we thought the Jews would gather to pray.

We sat down and began speaking to the women who were gathering there. One of them was a God-fearing woman, named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth. As she listened, the Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. After she had been baptized, together with her household, she invited us to her house, “If you think I am faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us to accept her invitation.

Gospel: Jn 15:26—16:4a:
From the Father, I will send you the Spirit of truth. When this Helper has come from the Father, he will be my witness, and you, too, will be my witnesses, for you have been with me from the beginning. I tell you all this to keep you from stumbling and falling away. They will put you out of the synagogue.

Still more, the hour is coming, when anyone who kills you will claim to be serving God; they will do this, because they have not known the Father or me. I tell you all these things now so that, when the time comes, you may remember that I told you about them. I did not tell you about this in the beginning, because I was with you.

Jesus now discloses the fate that awaits those who will persevere in following Him once He is gone. He never gives false hopes and promises to His own. He will strengthen and prepare them for the trials ahead but they will know what is in store for them if they remain faithful to His teachings. The only assurance He gives is that they will never be abandoned. The Holy Spirit will be with them as co-witnesses for Jesus in this world. Coming from others, these words meant to console would sound hollow and empty.

But on the lips of Jesus, they have the backing and guarantee of His words and actions that have never been known to be false. His integrity guarantees that what He says is true. These words probably were the source of strength for those who remained faithful even at the foot of the cross. These will also give those who gave in to momentary fear and cowardice the courage to regroup, to believe once again and to continue the cause that Jesus had left in their hands.

May 19th

1st Reading: Acts 16:22–34:
So they set the crowd against them; and the officials tore the clothes off Paul and Silas and ordered them to be flogged. And after inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to guard them safely. Upon receiving these instructions, he threw them into the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, a severe earthquake shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundations. Immediately, all the doors flew open and the chains of all the prisoners fell off. The jailer woke up to see the prison gates wide open.

Thinking that the prisoners had escaped, he drew his sword to kill himself, but Paul shouted to him, “Do not harm yourself! We are all still here.” The jailer asked for a light, then rushed in, and fell at the feet of Paul and Silas. After he had secured the other prisoners, he led them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you, and your household, will be saved.” Then they spoke the word of God to him and to all his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer took care of them and washed their wounds; and he, and his whole household, were baptized at once. He led them to his house, spread a meal before them and joyfully celebrated with his whole household his newfound faith in God.

Gospel: Jn 16:5–11:
But now I am going to the One who sent me, and none of you asks me where I am going; instead you are overcome with grief, because of what I have said. Believe me, it is better for you that I go away, because as long as I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go away, I will send him to you, and when he comes, he will vindicate the truth before a sinful world; and he will vindicate the paths of righteousness and justice. What is the world’s sin, in regard to me? Disbelief. What is the path of righteousness? It is the path I walk, by which I go to the Father; and you shall see me no more. What is the path of justice? It is the path on which the prince of this world will always stand condemned.

The time for mentoring is slowly coming to an end. It is not the glory of the Teacher if His pupils remain so. They too must become teachers themselves so that what they have learned from their Master will reach a wider audience. And so Jesus consoles His own with the assurance that the Spirit, the Helper will be sent to them to help them spread the truth of Jesus. They will lose the physical presence of the Lord, but the Spirit will abide forever in their hearts to make them feel that they are never abandoned by the Master who taught and prepared them to continue the mission once He is gone.

May 20th

St. Bernardine of Siena

1st Reading: Acts 17:15, 22 – 18:1:
Paul was taken as far as Athens by his escort, who then returned to Beroea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible. Then Paul stood up in the Areopagus hall and said, “Athenian citizens, I note that, in every way, you are very religious. As I walked around, looking at your shrines, I even discovered an altar with this inscription: To an unknown God. Now, what you worship as unknown, I intend to make known to you. God, who made the world and all that is in it, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, being as he is Lord of heaven and earth.

Nor does his worship depend on anything made by human hands, as if he were in need. Rather, it is he who gives life and breath and everything else, to everyone. From one stock he created the whole human race, to live throughout all the earth, and he fixed the time and the boundaries of each nation. He wanted them to seek him by themselves, even if it was only by groping for him, that they succeed in finding him.

Yet, he is not far from any one of us. For, in him, we live and move, and have our being; as some of your poets have said: for we, too, are his offspring. If we are indeed God’s offspring, we ought not to think of divinity as something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of human art and imagination. But now, God prefers to overlook this time of ignorance; and he calls on all people to change their ways. He has already set a day, on which he will judge the world with justice through a man he has appointed.

And, so that all may believe it, he has just given a sign, by raising this man from the dead.” When they heard Paul speak of a resurrection from death, some made fun of him, while others said, “We must hear you on this topic some other time.” At that point Paul left. But a few did join him, and believed. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus court, a woman named Damaris, and some others. After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

Gospel: Jn 16:12–15:
I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into the whole truth. For he will not speak of his own authority, but will speak what he hears, and he will tell you about the things which are to come. He will take what is mine and make it known to you; in doing this, he will glorify me. All that the Father has is mine; for this reason, I told you that the Spirit will take what is mine, and make it known to you.

Here Jesus affirms again His commitment not to leave His own orphaned and uncertain. He promises to send the Holy Spirit who will lead them into the whole truth. But the Holy Spirit will not reveal something new that Jesus has not told His disciples before. The Spirit will simply take what is Jesus’ truth and give it to the disciples, deepen it and make it part of their consciousness so that they too will have the mind of Jesus. The Spirit therefore will guarantee that the disciples will never forget. Our memories will be safeguarded by the Spirit lest we misrepresent the truth of our Lord.

May 21st

Ascension Thursday
St. Cristóbal Magallanes and Companions

1st Reading: Acts 18:1–8:
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There, he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, following a decree of the Emperor Claudius, which ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to visit them, and then stayed and worked with them, because they shared the same trade of tent making. Every Sabbath, he held discussions in the synagogue, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was able to give himself wholly to preaching, and proving to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.

One day, when they opposed him and insulted him, he shook the dust from his clothes in protest, saying, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. I am not to blame if, from now on, I go to the non-Jews.” So Paul left there and went to the house of a God-fearing man named Titus Justus, who lived next door to the synagogue. A leading man of the synagogue, Crispus, along with his whole household, believed in the Lord. On hearing Paul, many more Corinthians believed and were baptized.

Gospel: Jn 16:16–20:
A little while, and you will see me no more; and then a little while, and you will see me.” Some of the disciples wondered, “What does he mean by, ‘A little while, and you will not see me; and then a little while, and you will see me’? And why did he say, ‘I go to the Father’?” And they said to one another, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”

Jesus knew that they wanted to question him; so he said to them, “You are puzzled because I told you that in a little while you will see me no more, and then a little while later you will see me. Truly, I say to you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.

Sorrow and joy come together. They deepen the meaning of each other because of the contrast in experience they afford one another. And the going away of Jesus will give the disciples such contrast. When Jesus will be torn violently from them by death, their sorrow will plumb the depths of despair and hopelessness.

Only their memory of His words and teachings and their faith in Him will support them in this time of trial. Only their love for Him will make them strong. But this faith and love will be vindicated when Jesus will rise triumphant from death and return to them. Their joy will know no bounds. Jesus is true to His words. Doubts will cease. The liberating feeling of having placed their faith in someone who is truthful and worthy of belief will comfort them throughout their lives.

May 22nd

St. Rita of Cascia

1st Reading: Acts 18:9–18:
One night, in a vision, the Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid, but continue speaking and do not be silent, for many people in this city are mine. I am with you, so no one will harm you.” So Paul stayed a year and a half in that place, teaching the word of God among them. When Gallio was governor of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the court. And they accused him, “This man tries to persuade us to worship God in ways that are against the law.”

Paul was about to speak in his own defense when Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of a misdeed or vicious crime, I would have to consider your complaint. But since this is a quarrel about teachings and divine names that are proper to your own law, see to it yourselves: I refuse to judge such matters.” And he sent them out of the court.

Then the people seized Sosthenes, a leading man of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal; but Gallio paid no attention to it. Paul stayed on with the disciples in Corinth for many days; he then left them and sailed off with Priscilla and Aquila for Syria. And as he was no longer under a vow he had taken, he shaved his head before sailing from Cenchreae.

Gospel: Jn 16:20–23:
Truly, I say to you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. A woman in childbirth is in distress because her time is at hand. But after the child is born, she no longer remembers her suffering because of her great joy: a human being is born into the world. You feel sorrowful now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice; and no one will take your joy from you. When that day comes you will not ask me anything. Truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.

Joy that is borne out of sorrow is a transformed joy, not the exuberant, carefree happiness of spontaneous joy but a more sober, realistic and responsible joy. After all it is born of sacrifice and momentary pain. It knows how to relish the present because it faced squarely the sadness of the past. Jesus invites His disciples to such joy.

He tries to console them from their mourning by pointing to a gloriously joyful future ahead. And once they have it, joy can never be taken away from them. The night of weeping will cease. If they have passed this path already, there is no other direction except to happiness that lasts forever with Jesus.

May 23rd

1st Reading: Acts 18:23–28:
After spending some time there, he left and traveled from place to place through Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples. A certain Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived at Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker  and  an  authority  on  the  Scriptures,  and he had some knowledge of the way of the Lord. With great enthusiasm he preached and taught correctly about Jesus, although he knew only of John’s  baptism.  As  he  began  to  speak  boldly  in the synagogue, Priscilla and Aquila heard him; so they took him home with them and explained to him the way more accurately. As Apollos wished to  go  to  Achaia,  the  believers  encouraged  him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly strengthened those who,  by  God’s  grace,  had  become  believers,  for he vigorously refuted the Jews, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.

Gospel: Jn 16:23b–28:
Truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my  name, he will give you. So far you have not asked for anything in my name; ask, and receive, that your joy may be full. I have taught you all these things in veiled language, but the time is coming when I shall no longer speak in veiled language, but will speak to you plainly about the Father. When that day comes, you will ask in my name; and it will not be necessary for me to ask the Father for you, for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and you believed that I came from the Father. As I came from the Father, and have come into the world, so I am leaving the world, and going to the Father.

In Christianity, hesychasm is the process of going inwardly to the center of our being and past the senses, in order to achieve the mysterious experience of God. Hesychia is related to theoria, “looking at, gazing at, being aware of.” Prayer is action; praying leads to effective action. The presence of God through His name in the human heart confers upon the soul essence of stillness, rest, quiet and silence. It’s a paradox. One prays contemplatively while working actively (ora et labora, pray and work ).

Praying in the stillness of the heart makes all places and people seen in God’s light. The Way of a Pilgrim shares a person’s inner prayer and fervent communion with God. “When I prayed with my heart, everything around me seemed delightful and marvelous. The trees, the grass, the birds, the air, the light seemed to be telling me that they existed for man’s sake, that they witnessed to the love of God for man, … Thus it was that I came to understand what The Philokalia calls ‘the knowledge of the speech of all creatures’ … I felt a burning love for Jesus and for all God’s creatures.”