Bible Diary for May 3rd – 9th

May 3rd

4th Sunday of Easter
St. Philip & St. James

1st Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36–41:
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and, with a loud voice, addressed them, “Fellow Jews and all foreigners now staying in Jerusalem, listen to what I have to say. Let Israel, then, know for sure, that God has made Lord and Christ this Jesus, whom you crucified.” When they heard this, they were deeply troubled. And they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What shall we do, brothers?”

Peter answered: “Each of you must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven. Then, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise of God was made to you and your children, and to all those from afar, whom our God may call.” With many other words Peter gave the message; and appealed to them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So, those who accepted his word were baptized; some three thousand persons were added to their number that day.

2nd Reading: 1 PT 2:20b–25:
What merit would there be in taking a beating, when you have done wrong? But if you endure punishment when you have done well, that is a grace before God. This is your calling: remember Christ, who suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you may follow in his way. He did no wrong and there was no deceit in his mouth.

He did not return insult, for insult, and, when suffering, he did not curse, but put himself in the hands of God, who judges justly. He went to the cross, bearing our sins on his own body, on the cross, so that we might die to sin, and live an upright life. For, by his wounds, you have been healed. You were like stray sheep, but you have come back to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Gospel: Jn 10:1–10:
Truly, I say to you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. But the shepherd of the sheep enters by the gate. The keeper opens the gate to him and the sheep hear his voice; he calls each of his sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but rather they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize a stranger’s voice.”

Jesus used this comparison, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, I am the gate of the sheep. All who came were thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not hear them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved; he will go in and out freely and find food. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness.

Heaven and salvation are concepts that defy our neat and orderly reasoning. They are too big a reality to be captured by mere words. Thus, images such as the sheepfold, with its sense of security, due to its sturdy walls and food in abundance inside, convey in a human way some understanding of such realities that cannot be contained by human concepts. This is where our capacity for symbolic thinking enters the picture. For only those who know the art of thinking beyond the literal and the rational sequential process can relish the truths that come from higher domains. And so Jesus as the shepherd and the gate of the sheepfold invites us to contemplate the mystery of His being.

It is a task that demands time, perhaps an eternity for us to grasp a bit of who He really is. Many of us have a bias towards the left brain operation that deals with the linear, sequential and rational way of the thinking process. Our right brain which is the domain of creativity is hardly utilized. If the saying “two heads are better than one” is true, then it would be to our interest to develop the weak part of our brain operations. So why don’t we make a conscious effort to develop the capacity for whole-brain thinking? There are many materials in the internet about this. Perhaps this is what we need to spice up our spiritual life by awaking our capacity for wonder and enchantment.

May 4th

1st Reading: Acts 11:1–18:
News came to the apostles and the brothers and sisters in Judea that even foreigners had received the word of God. So, when Peter went up to Jerusalem, these Jewish believers began to argue with him, “You went to the home of uncircumcised people and ate with them!” So Peter began to give them the facts as they had happened, “I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when, in a trance, I saw a vision. Something like a large sheet came down from the sky and drew near to me, landing on the ground by its four corners.

As I stared at it, I saw four-legged creatures of the earth, wild beasts and reptiles, and birds of the sky. Then I heard a voice saying to me: ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ I replied, ‘Certainly not, Lord! No common or unclean creature has ever entered my mouth.’ A second time the voice from the heavens spoke, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call unclean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all drawn up into the sky. At that moment, three men, who had been sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were staying.

The Spirit instructed me to go with them without hesitation; so these six brothers came along with me and we entered into the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and telling him: ‘Send someone to Joppa and fetch Simon, also known as Peter. He will bring you a message by which you and all your household will be saved.’ I had begun to address them when suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon them, just as it had come upon us at the beginning.

Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If, then, God had given them the same gift that he had given us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to resist God?” When they heard this they set their minds at rest and praised God saying, “Then God has granted life giving repentance to the pagan nations as well.”

Gospel: Jn 10:11–18:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Not so the hired hand, or any other person who is not the shepherd, and to whom the sheep do not belong. They abandon the sheep as soon as they see the wolf coming; then the wolf snatches and scatters the sheep. This is because the hired hand works for pay and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father.

Because of this, I give my life for my sheep. I have other sheep which are not of this fold. These I have to lead as well, and they shall listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock, since there is one shepherd. The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down freely. It is mine to lay down and to take up again: this mission I received from my Father.”

Jesus employs a beautiful imagery of attention and care to those He called His own. This is easily understood by His listeners since the image of a shepherd was part and parcel of their life. Jesus uses this as a teaching device that people can emotionally relate to because it is part of their experience. This makes the teaching stick better in the minds of those whom He taught.

Thus, Jesus is a Teacher who has methods in teaching and communication skills. His added sets of competencies to His formidable person made Him an effective preacher of His time. He was as human as could be when teaching something about the divine.

May 5th

1st Reading: Acts 11:19–26:
Those who had been scattered, because of the persecution over Stephen, traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, proclaiming the message, but only to the Jews. But there were some natives of Cyprus and Cyrene among them who, on coming into Antioch, spoke also to the Greeks, giving them the good news of the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them so that a great number believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, so they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

When he arrived and saw the manifest signs of God’s favor, he rejoiced and urged them all to remain firmly faithful to the Lord; for he, himself, was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. Thus large crowds came to know the Lord. Then Barnabas went off to Tarsus, to look for Saul; and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year, they had meetings with the Church and instructed many people. It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.

Gospel: Jn 10:22–30:
The time came for the feast of the Dedication. It was winter, and Jesus walked back and forth in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in doubt? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I have already told you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name proclaim who I am, but you don’t believe because, as I said, you are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice and I know them; they follow me and I give them eternal life. They shall never perish, and no one will ever steal them from me. What my Father has given me, is greater than all things else. To snatch it out of the Father’s hand, no one is able! I and the Father are One.”

In today’s gospel, we continue the theme from yesterday of the sheep who knows his or her shepherd from yesterday. The people who hold on to their allegiance for or against Jesus are getting impatient. He has ruffled the feathers of the powerful elites; He must be the One longed for by Israel to come. Yet they had to be sure. And so they exerted pressure on Jesus to reveal who He really was.

But Jesus would not appease their doubts and uncertainties. These fence-setters would not get assurances as to whom they could safely place their bets. The fact that they still do not get it despite the words and actions of Jesus means they are not His sheep. Their eyes are blind; their ears are deaf to the many signs and affirmations that the Lord did in their midst. These seal their fate as not Jesus’ own.

May 6th

1st Reading: Acts 12:24—13:5a:
Meanwhile the word of God was increasing and spreading. Barnabas and Saul carried out their mission and then came back to Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark. There were at Antioch—in the Church which was there—prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon known as Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod, and Saul.

On one occasion, while they were celebrating the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, ”Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have called them.” So, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and sent them off. These then, sent by the Holy Spirit, went down to the port of Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. Upon their arrival in Salamis they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogue; John was with them as an assistant.

Gospel: Jn 12:44-50:
Yet Jesus had said, and even cried out, ”Whoever believes in me, believes not in me, but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me, sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I am not the one to condemn him; for I have come, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me, and does not receive my words, already has a judge: the very words I have spoken will condemn him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father, who sent me, has instructed me what to say and how to speak. I know that his commandment is eternal life, and that is why the message I give, I give as the Father instructed me.”

To see is to believe, but it is only when one hears that a more solid response could be made. For what one sees is explained by what one hears. It is therefore a task to tune our ears to hear in a listening attitude. But we notice that sometimes, sounds just enter our ear. They are not understood because the attention is to somewhere else. There is no conscious effort to process what is heard. This becomes noticeable when you have too many things in your head already. You become out of focus.

And this is the situation that Jesus‘ word find reception. So no matter how many times the Lord talks to us, we can only hear sounds but cannot understand. There is nothing to keep. The word of Jesus was never received anyway. It is because of this that we are condemned. Since the word of Jesus is light and life, then not having it leaves us in darkness and living a life not in fullness. Jesus doesn‘t need to do anything to condemn us. Our inattention has made us the condemned.

May 7th

1st Reading: Acts 13:13–25:
From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and came to Perga in Pamphylia. There, John left them and returned to Jerusalem, while they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent this message to them, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the assembly, please speak up.”

So Paul arose, motioned to them for silence and began, “Fellow Israelites and, also, all you who fear God, listen. The God of our people Israel chose our ancestors; and after he had made them increase during their stay in Egypt, he led them out by powerful deeds. For forty years he fed them in the desert; and after he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took four hundred and fifty years. After that, he gave them Judges, until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin; and he was king for forty years. After that time, God removed him and raised up David as king, to whom he bore witness saying: I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will do all I want him to do. It is from the descendants of David that God has now raised up the promised Savior of Israel, Jesus. Before he appeared, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. As John was ending his life’s work, he said: ‘I am not what you think I am, for, after me, another one is coming, whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’”

Gospel: Jn 13:16–20:
Truly, I say to you, the servant is not greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than he who sent him. Understand this, and blessed are you, if you put it into practice. I am not speaking of you all, because I know the ones I have chosen, and the Scripture has to be fulfilled which says: The one who shares my table will rise up against me. I tell you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may know that I am He. Truly, I say to you, whoever welcomes the one I send, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the One who sent me.”

Doing service to assure the comfort of others is not a menial task. It is a good task, something that each of us should think about. If we but from time to time think of doing something for the good of others, the world would be a better place than it is right now. Jesus showed us the impulse that must underlie our service to others.

It should be grounded on a love that does not feel diminished by humility. For humility as a virtue, does not humiliate. Only false humility does that. Humble service, if taken to heart, assures our blessedness. For it is not something easy. Only those with great spiritual strength have the capacity to do and sustain such an act.

May 8th

1st Reading: Acts 13:26–33:
Brothers, children and descendants of Abraham, and you, also, who fear God, it is to you that this message of salvation has been sent. It is a fact, that the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and their leaders, did not recognize Jesus. Yet, in condemning him, they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath, but not understood. Even though they found no charge against him that deserved death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And after they had carried out all that had been writ-ten concerning him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb.

But God raised him from the dead, and for many days thereafter, he showed himself, to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They have now become his witnesses before the people. We, ourselves, announce to you this Good News: All that God promised our ancestors, he has fulfilled, for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus, according to what is written in the second psalm: You are my Son, today I have begotten you.

Gospel: Jn 14:1–6:
“Do not be troubled! Trust in God and trust in me! In my Father’s house there are many rooms; otherwise, I would not have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. After I have gone and prepared a place for you, I shall come again and take you to me, so that where I am, you also may be. Yet you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.

Saying goodbye is not always easy. That is why Jesus tells His disciples that His going away for a while will actually benefit them. He will prepare their rooms in His Father’s house. Then He will return to take them with Him. This might blunt the pain of separation but it does not succeed in eliminating the sadness that His parting will cause.

Thomas himself expressed the doubts of his peers, they might not be able to know the way to follow Jesus when He leaves. And so Jesus has to assure them of His abiding love for them. He Himself will ensure that they will get to the place where He is through Him. They might not be together in the near future, but their unity, forged in love, will cut across the separation of time and space so that they will always remain together in that love.

May 9th

1st Reading: Acts 13:44–52:
The following Sabbath almost the entire city gathered to listen to Paul, who spoke a fairly long time about the Lord. But the presence of such a crowd made the Jews jealous. So they began to oppose, with insults, whatever Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out firmly, saying, “It was necessary, that God’s word be first proclaimed to you, but since you now reject it, and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we turn to non-Jewish people. For thus we were commanded by the Lord: I have set you as a light to the pagan nations, so that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Those who were not Jews rejoiced, when they heard this, and praised the message of the Lord; and all those, destined for everlasting life, believed in it. Thus the word spread, throughout the whole region. Some of the Jews, however, incited God-fearing women of the upper class, and the leading men of the city, as well, and stirred up an intense persecution against Paul and Barnabas. Finally, they had them expelled from their region. The apostles shook the dust from their feet, in protest against this people, and went to Iconium, leaving; the disciples, filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

Gospel: Jn 14:7–14:
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.”

People will sometimes compliment a father how his son is his spitting image. And the father finds joy in the fact that he will be perpetuated through the son. But in the case of Jesus, it is He who claims that He is the mirror image of the Father. Those who see Him, see the Father as well. This filial pride gives us a glimpse of how intimate Jesus is with His Father. Within the divine conversation the Father must have constantly assured the Son of their similarity and likeness.

And the Son seeing the fact itself as truth is confident enough to claim this with His disciples. We can only surmise how tenderness and intimacy is expressed within the Godhead, but one thing is clear at least. You are only happy to be the mirror of somebody else’s features, gestures and habits if you truly love that person. It will not be a burden at all but an honor.