Bible Diary for May 1st – 7th
3rd Sunday of Easter
St. Joseph the Worker
1st Reading: Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41:
So they brought them in and made them stand before the Council; and the High Priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders not to preach such a Savior; but you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching; and you intend charging us with the killing of this man.” To this, Peter and the apostles replied, “Better for us to obey God, rather than any human authority! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a wooden post.
“God set him at his right hand, as Leader and Savior, to grant repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses to all these things, as well as the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” They called in the apostles and had them whipped; and ordered them not to speak again of Jesus, the Savior. Then they set them free. The apostles went out from the Council, rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name.
2nd Reading: Rev 5:11-14:
I went on looking; I heard the noise of a multitude of angels, gathered around the throne, the living creatures and the elders, numbering millions of millions, crying out with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor, glory and praise. Then, I heard the voice of the whole universe, heaven, earth, sea, and the place of the dead; every creature cried out: To him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise, honor, glory and power, for ever and ever. And the four living creatures said, Amen, while the elders bowed down and worshiped.
Gospel: Jn 21:1-19:
After this, Jesus revealed himself to the disciples by the Lake of Tiberias. He appeared to them in this way: Simon Peter, Thomas who was called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two other disciples were together; and Simon Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” They replied, “We will come with you.” And they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, “Friends, have you anything to eat?” They answered, “Nothing.”
Then he said to them, “Throw the net on the right side of the boat and you will find something.” When they had lowered the net, they were not able to pull it in because of the great number of fish. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” At these words, “It’s the Lord!” Simon Peter put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and jumped into the water. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish; they were not far from land, about a hundred meters. When they landed, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.”
So Simon Peter climbed into the boat and pulled the net to shore. It was full of big fish—one hundred and fifty-three—but, in spite of this, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” And not one of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” for they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and he did the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples after rising from the dead. 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!”
When we think back and try to remember the various decisions we made in the course of our lives, we invariably come up with some decisions which proved to be ill-advised, unwise, disastrous or even shameful. “Ah,” we then lament, “if only I could un-make those bad decisions of my past!” But who can change the past? The answer to that question is simple: to man that is impossible, but not to God. For God can make our worst sins turn to our glory, if only we repent them. And that is precisely what Jesus is doing in today’s gospel episode. This is how it happens. Peter had betrayed Jesus three times on the night preceding Jesus’ death by stating he did not know Jesus (Mk 14:68, 70, 71).
Now Jesus is giving Peter the opportunity of somehow erasing his triple denial by a triple declaration of love. Upon the third question of Jesus (“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”) Peter becomes sad because he then realizes that Jesus is indirectly alluding to his triple denial of a few weeks before. Yet, not only is he fully restored to Jesus’ friendship, but he is given the grace of martyrdom in the bargain. Our humble contrition changes our dark sins into gleaming gems of light. Simon Peter atones for his triple betrayal of Jesus (Mk 14:68, 70, 71) with a triple protest of love. Our humble contrition changes our dark sins into gleaming gems of light. Let us tell Christ how much we love him and how much we regret our past betrayals. Show your appreciation for someone’s friendship.
1st Reading: Acts 6:8-15:
Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some persons then came forward, who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. They argued with Stephen. But they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke. As they were unable to face the truth, they bribed some men to say, “We heard him speak against Moses and against God.”
So they stirred up the people, the elders and the teachers of the law; they took him by surprise, seized him and brought him before the Council. Then they produced false witnesses, who said, “This man never stops speaking against our Holy Place and the law. We even heard him say that Jesus, the Nazorean, will destroy our Holy Place and change the customs which Moses handed down to us.” And all who sat in the Council fixed their eyes on him; and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.
Gospel: Jn 6:22-29:
Next day, the people, who had stayed on the other side, realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples; but rather, the disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias landed near the place where all these people had eaten the bread. When they saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Master, when did you come here?”
Jesus answered, “Truly, I say to you, you look for me, not because of the signs which you have seen, but because you ate bread and were satisfied. Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give it to you, for he is the one on whom the Father has put his mark.” Then the Jews asked him, “What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do?” And Jesus answered them, “The work God wants is this: that you believe in the One whom God has sent.”
There is a proverb that says, “Silence is golden.” This amounts to a warning: if you talk a lot, you have a good chance of saying something foolish at some point. That is true, but like many proverbs “silence is golden” cannot be adopted as an absolute norm. Sometimes silence is a cowardly betrayal. Today’s liturgy presents us with three men who dared to speak out against evil and who paid their act of bravery with their life. The first man is Bishop Stanislaus of Kracow, Poland. When his king, King Boleslow, invaded Russia, Stanislaus excommunicated him.
In retaliation, the king had him assassinated in 1079. The second man, the deacon Stephen, is presented in today’s first reading as a fearless defender of the Christian new faith. His opponents ended up stoning him to death. The third man is Jesus himself. In today’s gospel reading we see how he fearlessly denounced people’s wrong motives for following him around: they only care for material food, not for God’s food which Jesus wants to give them. We know how his straight talk landed him on the cross. Do we dare to speak up when our conscience tells us we should?
St. Philip & St. James
1st Reading: 1 Cor 15:1-8:
Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you, and which you received, and on which, you stand firm. By that gospel, you are saved, provided that you hold to it, as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain. In the first place, I have passed on to you what I, myself, received: that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterward, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest. Then he appeared to James, and after that, to all the apostles. And last of all, he appeared to the most despicable of them, this is, to me.
Gospel: Jn 14:6-14:
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. If you know me, you will know the Father also; indeed you know him, and you have seen him.” Philip asked him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough.” Jesus said to him, “What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever sees me sees the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? All that I say to you, I do not say of myself.
“The Father who dwells in me is doing his own work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; at least believe it on the evidence of these works that I do. Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in me will do the same works that I do; and he will even do greater than these, for I am going to the Father. Everything you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon my name, I will do it.
Through the lens of a microscope it is possible to explore the world of the very small (germs, microbes, cells, DNA molecules, etc.). And through the lens of a telescope it is possible to explore the immensity of outer space (planets, stars, galaxies, black holes, etc.). Lenses thus open up for us worlds that otherwise would remain forever unknown. God is the Great Unknown. Of him we cannot form a positive, adequate concept. We can only pronounce negative judgments about him: that he is infinitely this or that, but we do not really understand anything infinite because our own minds are themselves finite.
Fortunately, the Great Unknown has sent us his very Son to make himself known through him. Jesus of Nazareth is the divine lens who opens for us the world of God. In today’s gospel reading Jesus says: “Whoever sees me sees the Father”. When we look at Jesus, we are given a unique view into the very depths of God. We should make it our life mission to become more and more intimate with Jesus, our unique lens opening for us the world of God. Any study of Jesus is immensely rewarding.
1st Reading: Acts 8:1b-8:
This was the beginning of a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem. All, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church. He entered house after house and dragged off men and women, and had them put in jail. At the same time, those who were scattered went about, preaching the word. 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.
Gospel: Jn 6:35-40:
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in me shall never be thirsty. Nevertheless, as I said, you refuse to believe, even when you have seen. Yet all those whom the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I shall not turn away. For I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the One who sent me. And the will of him who sent me is that I lose nothing of what he has given me, but instead that I raise it up on the last day. This is the will of the Father, that whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall live eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The word zeal is defined thus in the Collins Dictionary: “fervent or enthusiastic devotion, often extreme or fanatical in nature.“ That definition seems to fit the apostle Paul’s frame of mind before his conversion. (He was then known as Saul). In yesterday’s first reading it is written that, as Stephen was being stoned to death by an angry mob, “the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul” and that “Saul was there, approving his murder.” In today’s first reading, we learn that “Saul was trying to destroy the Church. He entered house after house and dragged off men and women, and had them put in jail.”
This behavior is obviously that of a man full of zeal for his Jewish faith (which he thinks is being threatened by the Christian faith). It reminds us of our contemporary Muslim extremists who blow themselves up in suicidal car bombs aimed at killing Christians. Is their zeal sincere? It certainly is. Yet like Paul’s their actions are to be strongly condemned—not their hearts, however. We will be surprised one day to discover how many zealots of all stripes ended up in Paradise because, though their cause was evil, their heart was pure.
1st Readings: Acts 8:26-40:
An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south, toward the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert road.” So he set out and, it happened that, an Ethiopian was passing along that way. He was an official in charge of the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians. He had come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was on his way home. He was sitting in his carriage and reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and catch up with that carriage.” So Philip ran up and heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah; and he asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?”
He then invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. This was the passage of Scripture he was reading: He was led like a sheep to be slaughtered; like a lamb that is dumb before the shearer, he did not open his mouth. He was humbled and deprived of his rights. Who can speak of his descendants? For he was uprooted from the earth. The official asked Philip, “Tell me, please, does the prophet speak of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip began to tell him the Good News of Jesus, using this text of Scripture as his starting point.
As they traveled down the road, they came to a place where there was some water. Then the Ethiopian official said, “Look, here is water; what is to keep me from being baptized?” Then he ordered the carriage to stop. Both Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away. The Ethiopian saw him no more, but he continued on his way full of joy. Philip found himself at Azotus; and he went about, announcing the Good News in all the towns, until he reached Caesarea.
Gospel: Jn 6:44-51:
No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise him up on the last day. It has been written in the Prophets: They shall all be taught by God. So whoever listens and learns from the Father comes to me. For no one has seen the Father except the One who comes from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Though your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, they died. But here you have the bread from heaven, so that you may eat of it, and not die. I am the living bread from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever. The bread I shall give is my flesh, and I will give it for the life of the world.”
Most Christians, when they hear the expression “eternal life,” spontaneously think of a life which will last forever, since the dictionary definition of eternal is “lasting forever” (Collins). But in John’s gospel the expression “eternal life” refers less to duration (no limit in time) as to quality (somehow pertaining to God’s nature). Here a footnote of the New Jerusalem Bible explains the word “eternal” thus: “a word which denotes a quality properly divine which puts this life beyond what is corporeal, beyond time and beyond measure… it is promised to believers (cf. 2 Cor 4:18), but already given to them… It will be completed by the resurrection” (footnote j on Jn 3:15).
In other words, even in this life the true believers in Christ live a life of intimacy with Christ which is quite unique and which is a source of deep peace, contentment—and even joy. And this intimacy only deepens with time. So much so that, when death comes, the true believers are not surprised to find themselves in the arms of God, because they always knew in the depth of their hearts that faith had already placed them there.
1st Reading: Acts 9:1-20:
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength. He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
Gospel: Jn 6:52-59:
The Jews were arguing among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. My flesh is really food, and my blood is truly drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood, live in me, and I in them. Just as the Father, who is life, sent me, and I have life from the Father, so whoever eats me will have life from me. This is the bread from heaven; not like that of your ancestors, who ate and later died. Those who eat this bread will live forever.” Jesus spoke in this way in Capernaum when he taught them in the synagogue.
In the Book of Acts the Christian faith is seven times referred to as the Way (here in today’s first reading, as also in Acts 18:26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22) or as the Way of the Lord. It is interesting to note that, already in the 6th century B.C., the Chinese Lao-Tze called the new religion he was teaching the Tao, which in Chinese means: path, way. Nothing is really surprising in all this because a religion, any religion, teaches a way of living more than a set of abstract notions. Consequently, if our Christianity is only made of information about God and nothing more (that is, if it does not inform our lives), it is useless.
Another striking detail in today’s first reading is the manner in which Jesus completely identifies himself with Christians: “Why do you persecute me… I am Jesus whom you persecute.” These words should not surprise us because in today’s gospel reading Jesus specifies very clearly that “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood, live in me, and I in them.” To be a Christian is to be inside Christ and it is to have Christ be inside him or her. There is no deeper intimacy.
St. Rose Venerini
1st Reading: Acts 9:31-42:
Meanwhile, the Church had peace. It was building up throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, with eyes turned to the Lord, and filled with comfort from the Holy Spirit. As Peter traveled around, he went to visit the saints who lived in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed, and had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!” And the man got up at once.
All the people living in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. There was a disciple in Joppa named Tabitha, which means Dorcas, or Gazelle. She was always doing good works and helping the poor. At that time, she fell sick and died. After having washed her body, they laid her in the upstairs room. As Lydda is near Joppa, the disciples, on hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.”
Gospel: Jn 6:60-69:
After hearing this, many of Jesus’ followers said, “This language is very hard! Who can accept it?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were murmuring about this, and so he said to them, “Does this offend you? Then how will you react when you see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, not the flesh. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”
From the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray him. So he added, “As I have told you, no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” After this many disciples withdrew and no longer followed him. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Will you also go away?” Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We now believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
In the previous gospel readings of the past week we heard strange declarations made by Jesus such as this one: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh… My blood is true drink… whoever drinks my blood remains in me” (Jn 6:51, 55, 56). Upon hearing these words, as we see in today’s gospel reading, many of his followers recoiled in horror. They thought that Jesus was advocating some kind of cannibalism. And they began leaving him by droves.
Now at this point Jesus had a choice: he could have backed out of his declaration by shouting to them: “Hey, come back! I was only speaking figuratively. The Eucharistic bread and wine are only symbols, a commemoration, not really my flesh and blood”—what most of our protestant brethren believe. But Jesus, at the risk of losing all credibility and all his disciples, does not retract a single word he said. He is dead serious about the utter reality of his presence in the consecrated bread and wine. He risks everything on this central mystery of our faith. Let us not water it down either. The Eucharist is Jesus physically real. Period.