Bible Diary for May 7th – May 13th

May 7th

5th Sunday of Easter
St. Rose Venerini

1st Reading: Acts 6:1-7:
As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

2nd Reading: 1 Pt 2:4-9:
Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture: Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Gospel: Jn 14:1-12:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen 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? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Many of us cannot help worrying about the future. Time sometimes terrorizes us. But with Jesus, time ceases to intimidate because He promises a glorious future for those who believe. It is only a matter of attitude on our part whether we hold firmly to this promise or doubt it. In the end, it is we who are the author of the misery or the joy of our living. Some people might attack our Christian optimism accusing us of clinging to an illusion or false hope, but what have they as an alternative? Their claim to an alternative meaningful life still demands an act of faith on those who follow it.

And so between the two messiahs or multiple messiahs that present different visions of life, whom do we choose? May our faith be strong enough to believe that Jesus’ vision for us is the best portion among the lot. Making an act of faith in Jesus tends to be mechanical sometimes without our awareness or the full participation of our being. It would be good to pause today and make a sincere proclamation of our faith in Jesus, relishing every word, allowing it to penetrate our whole being so that we can stand for that act of faith no matter what the world will say for or against it.

May 8th

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:
Jesus said to his disciples: “”Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”” Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “”Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”” Jesus answered and said to him, “”Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. “”I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name– he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.””

The Helper, the Holy Spirit, is introduced in the gospel today. This is another assurance of Jesus that while He is gone, He will not leave His disciples orphaned. Someone from the Trinity will always be with them. Just as Jesus comes to do the will of the Father, so the Holy Spirit will teach and remind them of all that Jesus told them. In the end, we can see the teamwork and harmony within the Godhead. The Father puts His plan into operation, the Son and the Holy Spirit cooperate in perfect accord. No one makes an initiative by Himself. The Three Persons, within the Trinity, always act in perfect harmony. It is because of this that when someone acts in the name of any of the Persons in the Godhead but it contradicts the teaching of Jesus, that is a sure sign that he or she is an impostor. For the Son only says what His Father tells Him and the Spirit reminds us of all Jesus said and taught. The Trinity cannot contradict itself.

May 9th

1st Reading: Acts 14:19-28:
In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won over the crowds. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and entered the city. On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the Church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Then they spent no little time with the disciples.

Gospel: Jn 14:27-31a:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

Recently, it seems that the gospels are all about Jesus making preparations to leave behind those whom He calls friends. It is a long series of farewell. It seems that Jesus is taking too much time to say His goodbyes. For isn’t it that the more intimate we are with one another, the harder the separation will be. Jesus experienced this very human feeling of attachment. But no matter how hard it is for Him, He remained focused on His task. The mission given Him by the Father must be done. If the price is the pain of separation from those He called His own, He is willing to pay the price. But meanwhile, He will try to comfort His friends. It is them and their good that will preoccupy Him throughout. He will always love them till the very end.

May 10th

St. Damien de Veuster

1st Reading: Acts 15:1-6:
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question. They were sent on their journey by the Church, and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria telling of the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, as well as by the Apostles and the presbyters, and they reported what God had done with them. But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.” The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.

Gospel: Jn 15:1-8:
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Intimacy with Jesus is the source of fruitfulness in our life and work. There is no other way, for to graft ourselves onto Jesus means that His tremendous power and creativity is there at our disposal. We will count not only on our own strengths and capacities; Jesus Himself will work with us. The vine, being Jesus, and we, as the branches are a beautiful image of how we are supposed to remain with one another. It also gives a beautiful example of how Jesus allows us authorship of good works in this world while He remains hidden in the center, supporting our initiatives and guiding our works toward completion. After all, vines tend to be covered by the luxuriant branches hiding it from view. May we always remain in Him who keeps us fruitful throughout.

May 11th

1st Reading: Acts 15:7-21:
After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to the Apostles and the presbyters, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.” The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them.

After they had fallen silent, James responded, “My brothers, listen to me. Symeon has described how God first concerned himself with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name. The words of the prophets agree with this, as is written: After this I shall return and rebuild the fallen hut of David; from its ruins I shall rebuild it and raise it up again, so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord, even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked. Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things, known from of old. It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood. For Moses, for generations now, has had those who proclaim him in every town, as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath.”

Gospel: Jn 15:9-11:
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”

Keeping the commandments of the one who loves us should be a breeze. We are assured that whatever He wills for us is for our own good, no matter how much it will discomfort us, or go contrary to our own wishes and desires. We are at least assured that it comes from a heart whose only concern is our good. This is probably why Jesus calls us friends instead of servants. For a friend is never commanded to do things. Only servants are commanded to blind obedience. As friends we know where the command of Jesus comes from. It comes from a loving heart who desires our very own good more than we do. This is the motivation for our joy. That is why we can follow without regret.

May 12th

Sts. Nereus and Achilleus
St. Pancras

1st Reading: Acts 15:22-31:
The Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers. This is the letter delivered by them: “The Apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.'” And so they were sent on their journey. Upon their arrival in Antioch they called the assembly together and delivered the letter. When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation.

Gospel: Jn 15:12-17:
Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”

And now, the rule to end all rules is given to the disciples. The commandment to love will be the supreme rule throughout their lives. After more than two thousand years, how has the community that Jesus started and still exists fare against this commandment to love? Have we understood what Jesus meant, or are we still grappling our way towards love that allows us to risk and even give our lives for our friends? The world has changed since then, but the rule remains valid even now. We need heroes of love who will show us how to do it. Is there anyone of us courageous enough to heed the commandment uttered a long time ago but still awaiting realization?

May 13th

Our Lady of Fatima

1st Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17:
Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

2nd Reading: 1 Pt 3:15-18:
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.

Gospel: Jn 14:15-21:
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself 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.