Bible Diary for April 24th – 30th

April 24th

2do domingo de pascua
San Fidelis de Sigmaringen

1st Reading: Acts 5:12-16:
Many miraculous signs and wonders were done among the people, through the hands of the apostles. The believers, of one accord, used to meet in Solomon’s Porch. None of the others dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. So, an ever-increasing number of men and women, believed in the Lord. The people carried the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and on mats, so, that, when Peter passed by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those who were troubled by unclean spirits; and all of them were healed.

2nd Reading: Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19:
I, John, your brother, who shares with you, in Jesus, the sufferings, the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island of Patmos, because of the word of God and witnessing to Jesus. On the Lord’s day, the spirit took possession of me and I heard a voice behind me, which sounded like a trumpet, “Write down all that you see, in a book, and send it to the seven churches.”

I turned to see who was speaking to me; behind me were seven golden lamp stands and, in the middle of these, I saw someone, like a son of man, dressed in a long robe, tied with a golden girdle. Seeing him, I fell at his feet, like one dead; but he touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. It is I, the First and the Last. I am the living one; I was dead; and now I am alive, forever and ever; and mine are the keys of death and the netherworld. Now write what you have seen, both what is and what is yet to come.”

Gospel: Jn 20:19-31:
On the evening of that day, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples, seeing the Lord, were full of joy. Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

Tomás, el Gemelo, uno de los Doce, no estaba con ellos cuando Jesús vino. Los otros discípulos le dijeron: "Hemos visto al Señor". Pero él respondió: "Hasta que no vi en sus manos la huella de las uñas, y puse mi dedo en la marca de las uñas y mi mano en su costado, no creeré ”. Ocho días después, los discípulos estaban nuevamente dentro de la casa y Tomás estaba con ellos. Aunque las puertas estaban cerradas con llave, Jesús se acercó a ellos y dijo: "¡La paz esté con ustedes!"

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe!” Thomas said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see me, don’t you? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” There were many other signs that Jesus gave in the presence of his disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Believe, and you will have life through his name!

Today’s gospel scene presents what happened to the apostle Thomas, his change of heart about the fact of the resurrection. Unfortunately for Thomas, this incident has left him with the unflattering nickname of Doubting Thomas–as if Thomas was a kind of ungracious, stubborn and proud man. But that is a caricature of him. Thomas was actually a very good man and, knowing Thomas to be entirely devoted to him deep down, Jesus treats him with exquisite tenderness. We get to know the real Thomas on the occasion when Jesus, learning of his friend Lazarus’ illness, decides to go and visit him in Jerusalem.

The apostles want to dissuade him from doing that: “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” But Jesus refuses to listen to them. That is when our Thomas shows his true colors. In the words of John, “Thomas… said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go to die with him’ (Jn 11:7-16). Thomas may have been a hard-headed skeptic when it came to the resurrection of Jesus, but he was always nevertheless ready to lay down his life for him. And Jesus loved him for it. In this episode we see what exquisite tenderness Jesus shows to Thomas. He remembers that Thomas had once said: “Let us go and die with him” (Jn 11:16). Let us join Thomas in saying from the bottom of our hearts: “You are my Lord and my God.” Today let us be extra gentle when dealing with doubters.

April 25th

San Marcos

1st Reading: 1 Pt 5:5b-14:
All of you must clothe yourselves with humility, in your dealings with one another, because God opposes the proud but gives his grace to the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God, so that he will raise you up at the appointed time. Place all your worries on him, since he takes care of you. Be sober and alert, because, your enemy, the devil prowls about, like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Stand your ground, firm in your faith, knowing, that our brothers and sisters, scattered throughout the world, are confronting similar sufferings.

God, the giver of all grace, has called you, to share in Christ’s eternal glory, and after you have suffered a little, he will bring you to perfection: he will confirm, strengthen and establish you forever. Glory be to him forever and ever. Amen. I have had these few lines of encouragement, written to you by Silvanus, our brother, whom I know to be trustworthy. For I wanted to remind you of the kindness of God, really present in all this. Hold on to it. Greetings from the community in Babylon, gathered by God, and from my son, Mark. Greet one another with a friendly embrace. Peace to you all who are in Christ.

Gospel: Mk 16:15-20:
Then he 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.

We are celebrating today the feast of St. Mark, the author of one of our four gospels. Experts are pretty unanimous in saying that Mark, who had probably never heard Jesus personally, put down in writing the preaching of Peter, with whom he was so closely associated that Peter calls him “my son” in today’s first reading. The most ancient tradition we have calls Mark “the interpreter” of Peter, probably because Peter did not know Greek well enough to preach in that language, and Mark served as Peter’s interpreter. Mark was the first to write a full length gospel.

He did this most probably between the years 60-70. Tradition is unanimous in saying that Mark wrote his gospel in Rome and for Gentile Christians, that is, former pagans converted to Christianity. He wrote in elementary Greek, much less polished than Matthew’s and Luke’s Greek, but his style is much more lively. He is a born storyteller and is always interesting. He loves details and can regale his reader with all kinds of vivid notations which suggest an eyewitness (Peter) behind his stories. We owe a great debt of gratitude to this great raconteur.

April 26th

1st Reading: Acts 4:32-37:
The whole community of believers was one in heart and mind. No one claimed private ownership of any possessions; but rather, they shared all things in common. With great power, the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, for all of them were living in an exceptional time of grace. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned land or houses, sold them and brought the proceeds of the sale. And they laid it at the feet of the apostles, who distributed it, according to each one’s need. This is what a certain Joseph did. He was a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas, meaning: “The encouraging one.” He sold a field which he owned and handed the money to the apostles.

Gospel: Jn 3:7b-15:
“Don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again from above.’ The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus asked again, “How can this be?” And Jesus answered, “You are a teacher in Israel, and you don’t know these things! Truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we witness to the things we have seen, but you don’t accept our testimony. If you don’t believe when I speak of earthly things, what then, when I speak to you of heavenly things? No one has ever gone up to heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

In several languages the same word (ruah in Hebrew, pneuma in Greek, spiritus in Latin, etc.) means at same time: breath, wind and human spirit (or even Holy Spirit depending on the context). Why is this? Perhaps because, as long as people are alive, that is, have a working mind (= spirit) inside them, then they also breathe, and breath is basically a small wind. Because of this commonality of meaning, Jesus liked to compare (as he does in today’s gospel reading) the Holy Spirit to a kind of wind. And that is quite logical.

After all, the wind is invisible like the Holy Spirit and yet can have a tremendous effect on things and people (think of a hurricane or a typhoon). Also, the wind is unpredictable in its displacements, just as the Holy Spirit is entirely free to bring his gifts to whomever He wants. Some people, though no action of theirs, are born and raised in a thoroughly Christian environment and believe in God’s word as easily as they breathe—while others learn only harsh atheism from their environment. With the Spirit, anything is possible—even our transformation into saints!

April 27th

1st Reading: Acts 5:17-26:
The High Priest and all his supporters, that is, the party of the Sadducees, became very jealous of the apostles; so they arrested them and had them thrown into the public jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the door of the prison during the night, brought them out, and said to them, “Go and stand in the temple court and tell the people the whole of this living message.” Accordingly, they entered the temple at dawn and resumed their teaching. When the High Priest and his supporters arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin, that is the full Council of the elders of Israel. They sent word to the jail to have the prisoners brought in. But when the temple guards arrived at the jail, they did not find them inside; so they returned with the news, “We found the prison securely locked, and the prison guards at their post outside the gate; but when we opened the gate, we found no one inside.” Upon hearing these words, the captain of the temple guard and the high priests were baffled, wondering where all of this would end. Just then, someone arrived with the report, “Look, those men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple, teaching the people.” Then the captain went off with the guards and brought them back, but without any show of force, for fear of being stoned by the people.

Gospel: Jn 3:16-21:
Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. This is how Judgment is made: Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For whoever does wrong hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, for fear that his deeds will be seen as evil. But whoever lives according to the truth comes into the light, so that it can be clearly seen that his works have been done in God.”

Today’s gospel reading is written in typical John-style: all the words used are extremely simple and clear (John’s entire gospel used a vocabulary of just over a thousand words—whereas Luke uses three times as many different words) and yet John succeeds in saying things of almost infinite depth and meaning. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” How could one describe God’s character in more simple words?

Yet in some Protestant theologies God is presented as an angry Despot whose honor is soiled by our sins and who demands as an adequate reparation that his Son die on a cross in our place (theory of penal substitution)—and only then is he appeased. This view, inherited from a feudal society based on honor and proportionate compensation, has nothing to do with the God of Jesus, the real and only God. The God of Jesus is pure compassion for our estranged world. In a desperate attempt to save us, he sends us his Son to die for us. All he wants is to save us from death and despair. Shall we ever understand how much God loves us?

April 28th

San Pedro Chanel
San Luis Grignion de Montfort

1st Reading: Acts 5:27-33:
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.” When the Council heard this, they became very angry and wanted to kill them.

Gospel: Jn 3:31-36:
He who comes from above is above all; he who comes from the earth belongs to the earth, and his words belong to the earth. He who comes from heaven speaks of the things he has seen and heard; he bears witness to these things, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does receive his testimony acknowledges the truthfulness of God. The one sent by God speaks God’s words, and gives the Spirit unstintingly. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything into his hands. Whoever believes in the Son lives with eternal life; but he who will not believe in the Son will never know life, and always faces the justice of God.

Jesus comes from heaven. He speaks the things of heaven. He speaks God’s words, nothing else. He will bring people to heaven. But humanity does not believe him. The gospel of John clearly presents the importance of believing in the claims of Jesus. He comes from heaven and he brings only to us what he has seen and heard from the Father. Later Jesus will make miracles or signs to back up his claims. Still, many will not believe in him. There is a judgment to those who out rightly reject him and never gives him an inch.

But to those who come to believe him, he promises life eternal. To us who believe, we may ask, “What does it mean to believe?” To believe in Jesus is to enter into a relationship with him and consequently with the Father who sent him. To believe in him is to take seriously his words, his claims and his teachings. They may appear so ordinary or outrageous at times, but they come from his Father. What may be hard to believe for the Jews is his claim of divinity. Jesus will later say, “Nobody comes to me, unless the Father draw him.

April 29th

Santa Catalina de Siena

1st Reading: Acts 5:34-42:
A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time, and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel, be careful what you are about to do to these men. Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered. So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.

For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him. After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

Gospel: Jn 6:1-15:
After this, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when he healed the sick. So he went up into the hills and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Then lifting up his eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, he told his disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Jesus realized that they would come and take him by force to make him king; so he fled to the hills by himself.

Obviously today’s gospel reading on the feeding of a large crowd by a miraculous multiplication of bread is a symbolic anticipation of the gift of the Eucharist, by which God feeds his people with the Body of his Son until the end of time, when we will all celebrate our loving God in the heavenly banquet. Let us look at a few interesting details of this narrative. The question Jesus asks Philip betrays Jesus’ sense of humor. He is clearly teasing Philip and having fun at his expense. We rarely imagine a fun-loving Jesus or even a laughing Jesus.

Yet, there are entire books written about his sense of humor. As to the boy who provided the five loaves and the two fish, one can imagine what went on in his mind when asked to offer them to Jesus. Maybe a mere look into Jesus’ eyes was enough to inspire him to give Jesus all he had, including his heart. Jesus flees the crowds who want to make him a king—a political king who would oppose the detested Romans and possibly kick them out. But he is not that kind of king. He wants our hearts, not our swords.

April 30th

San pio v

1st Reading: Acts 6:1-7:
In those days, as the number of disciples grew, so-called Hellenists complained against the so-called Hebrews, because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve summoned the whole body of disciples together, and said, “It is not right, that we should neglect the word of God to serve at tables. So, friends, choose from among yourselves seven respected men, full of Spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them to this task. As for us, we shall give ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”

The whole community agreed; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit; Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenus and Nicolaus of Antioch, who was a proselyte. They presented these men to the apostles, who, first prayed over them, and then, laid hands upon them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; and even many priests accepted the faith.

Gospel: Jn 6:16-21:
When evening came, the disciples went down to the shore. After a while, they got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the sea, for it was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to them. But the sea was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing. They had rowed about three or four miles, when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and he was drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but he said to them, “It is I! Don’t be afraid!” They wanted to take him into the boat, but immediately, the boat was at the shore to which they were going.

Today’s gospel reading reports a strange miracle. It describes Jesus walking on the sea. But immediately a question arises in our minds about this particular miracle. What was its purpose? This is a natural question because almost all the miracles of Jesus (healings, exorcisms, raising of a dead person, multiplication of wine or bread, etc.) have a beneficial purpose. They aim at helping people. In that respect, how does that miracle of walking on the sea compare? Here we are reduced to speculations, because neither Jesus nor the evangelists answer this question. Well, at least two answers come to mind, both possibly correct.

First, Jesus could see that his disciples were having a hard time battling the strong winds, he had pity on them and came to reassure them by his presence as fast as he could reach them, namely, by walking on the water, and thus taking a short cut. Second, he wanted to give them another proof of his divinity by doing something impossible for a mere human. This miracle would make their act of faith in him easier. At any rate, it seems that this miracle, too, like all the other miracles, was inspired by Jesus’ compassion.