Bible Diary for May 2nd – 8th

May 2nd

Fifth Sunday of Easter
San Atanasio

1st Reading: Acts 9:26–31:
When Saul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples there, but they were afraid of him because they could not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He recounted to them how Saul had seen the Lord on his way and the words the Lord had spoken to him. He told them also how Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. Then Saul began to live with them. He moved about freely in Jerusalem and preached openly in the name of the Lord.

He also spoke to the Hellenists and argued with them, but they wanted to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 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.

2nd Reading: 1 Jn 3:18–24:
My dear children, let us love not only with words and with our lips, but in truth and in deed. Then we shall know that we are of the truth and we may calm our conscience in his presence. Every time it reproaches us, let us say: God is greater than our conscience, and he knows everything. When our conscience does not condemn us, dear friends, we may have complete confidence in God. Then whatever we ask we shall receive, since we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

His command is that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us that we know he lives in us.

Gospel: Jn 15:1–8:
I am the true vine and my Father is the vinegrower. If any of my branches doesn’t bear fruit, he breaks it off; and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit. You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Live in me as I live in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but has to remain part of the vine; so neither can you, if you don’t remain in me. I am the vine and you are the branches.

As long as you remain in me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not remain in me is thrown away, as they do with branches, and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask whatever you want, and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit: it is then that you become my disciples.

A shoot separated from the plant may still seem to have life, but after a short time, the cut branch starts showing the signs of death just like Christians who abandon their faith; slowly they will be eaten up by the lure of what is worldly. How do we nurture our connection with God? How is our prayer life? Many times I have separated myself from your presence, Lord. I disappoint you. I disown you. I hurt you… I am sorry Lord. Let me turn back to your loving care and never allow me to be separated from you. Amen. Join a prayer group and nurture your prayer life with the Word of God personally and as a family. Remember: “The family that prays together stays together.”

May 3rd

St. Philip & St. James

1st Reading: 1 Cor 15:1-8:
I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared 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.”

Paul passed on the faith that he received. Similarly our faith in Jesus has been passed on to us by earlier generations. Not being eyewitnesses of the Risen Lord, we rely on their testimony and witness. And as we have received the faith we are missioned to pass it on to others through our words and through the witness of our lives. How amazing that the almighty God allows his Gospel to be transmitted by frail and fragile vessels. How humbling that the Lord chooses to rely on us despite our sinfulness in order to proclaim the Gospel of salvation.

May 4th

1st Reading: Acts 14:19–28:
Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the people against them. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the town, leaving him for dead. But when his disciples gathered around him, he stood up and returned to the town. And the next day he left for Derbe with Barnabas. After proclaiming the gospel in that town and making many disciples, they returned to Lystra and Iconium and on to Antioch. They were strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain firm in the faith, for they said, “We must go through many trials to enter the kingdom of God.”

In each church they appointed elders and, after praying and fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had placed their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia. They preached the Word in Perga and went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had first been commended to God’s grace for the task they had now completed. On their arrival they gathered the Church together and told them all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the non-Jews. They spent a fairly long time there with the disciples.

Gospel: Jn 14:27–31a:
Peace be with you! My peace I give you; not as the world gives peace do I give it to you. Do not be troubled! Do not be afraid! You heard me say, ‘I am going away, but I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you this now before it takes place, so that when it does happen you may believe. There is very little left for me to tell you, for the prince of this world is at hand, although there is nothing in me that he can claim. But see, the world must know that I love the Father, and that I do what the Father has taught me to do.

A bishop greets the faithful at Mass with “Pax (sit cum) omnibus” (Peace be with you), whereas a priest normally says, “Dominus vobiscum” (The Lord be with you). What is the difference between these two greetings? Whenever Jesus meets his apostles, especially at the post resurrection events, he greets them with “Peace be with you.” The Church firmly believes that the apostles (one who is sent out), primarily the receivers and givers of Christ’s peace, were succeeded by bishops. Priests are similar to the disciples (learners, students) of Jesus under the guidance of the apostles.

Some people theorize that after the resurrection some of the disciples were commissioned as twelve apostles. (cf. Mk 3:14,15; 6:7-11; Mt 10:1; 28:19,20; Jn 20:23) We are commissioned also to be both givers and recipients of peace. This is the story of a young man who in his 20’s wanted to change the world, but he could not. In mid-life, he settled instead to change his village but failed. He then decided to change his family and failed again. In his deathbed he thought that he should have started changing himself first, but it was too late. Let peace begin with you, let it be NOW!

May 5th

1st Reading: Acts 15:1–6:
Some persons who had come from Judea to Antioch were teaching the brothers in this way, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Because of this there was trouble, and Paul and Barnabas had fierce arguments with them. For Paul told the people to remain as they were when they became believers. Finally, those who had come from Jerusalem suggested that Paul and Barnabas and some others go up to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the apostles and elders.

They were sent on their way by the Church. As they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they reported how the non-Jews had turned to God, and there was great joy among all the brothers and sisters. On their arrival in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, the apostles and the elders, to whom they told all that God had done through them. Some believers, however, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees, stood up and said that non-Jewish men must be circumcised and instructed to keep the law of Moses. So the apostles and elders met together to consider this matter.

Gospel: Jn 15:1–8:
I am the true vine and my Father is the vinegrower. If any of my branches doesn’t bear fruit, he breaks it off; and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit. You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Live in me as I live in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but has to remain part of the vine; so neither can you, if you don’t remain in me. I am the vine and you are the branches.

As long as you remain in me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not remain in me is thrown away, as they do with branches, and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask whatever you want, and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit: it is then that you become my disciples.

Positive disintegration is expressive of multilevel inner conflicts between one’s ideals and values (what must be) and one’s internal and external life (what is). Kazimierz Dąbrowski’s, the main proponent of Theory of Positive Disintegration, sees psychological tension and anxiety as necessary for growth. These “disintegrative” processes are therefore seen as “positive,” whereas people who fail to go through positive disintegration may remain fixated in a state of “primary integration.” Advancing into the higher levels of development is premised on developmental potential, including over excitabilities and above average reactions to stimuli. (E. Mika)

Briefly, TPD is searching within oneself and owning the obstacles to developmental growth. Oxymoronically, to ascend is to descend. The question to be circumcised or not is disintegrative, if it hinders a person’s developmental growth. However, conflicts due to dissenting views can be a person’s means for maturity. Concerns about one’s physical needs and other anxieties must never be over and above God’s kingdom. Making God’s kingdom one’s second priority is disintegrative. It can be growth productive, if set in the right order. “And seek not you what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, neither be you of doubtful mind.” (Lk12:29; Mt 6:25-34)

May 6th

1st Reading: Acts 15:7-21:
As the discussions became heated, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that from the beginning God chose me among you so that non-Jews could hear the Good News from me and believe. God, who can read hearts, put himself on their side by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them and cleansed their hearts through faith. So why do you want to put God to the test? Why do you lay on the disciples a burden that neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? We believe, indeed, that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”

The whole assembly kept silent as they listened to Paul and Barnabas tell of all the miraculous signs and wonders that God had done through them among the non-Jews. After they had finished, James spoke up, “Listen to me, brothers. Symeon has just explained how God first showed his care by taking a people for himself from non-Jewish nations.

And the words of the prophets agree with this, for Scripture says, After this I will return and rebuild the booth of David which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again. Then the rest of humanity will look for the Lord, and all the nations will be consecrated to my Name. So says the Lord, who does today what he decided from the beginning.

Because of this, I think that we should not make difficulties for those non-Jews who are turning to God. Let us just tell them not to eat food that is unclean from having been offered to idols; to keep themselves from prohibited marriages; and not to eat the flesh of animals that have been strangled, or any blood. For from the earliest times Moses has been taught in every place, and every Sabbath his laws are recalled.”

Gospel: Jn 15:9-11:
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love! You will remain in my love if you keep my commandments, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you all this, that my own joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.

True friendship springs from the heart, the seat of love. “Thanks to their friendship, and the role of their hearts, the Twelve at least substantially understood and began to learn more of who Christ really was … There are learned individuals who know many details of Christ, and simple people who don’t know these details, but they know Christ in his truth: ‘The heart speaks to the heart.’ And Paul essentially says that he knows Jesus in this way, with the heart, and that he knows essentially the person in his truth; and then afterward, he knows the details.” (Benedict V1)

There was a student who seeks for wisdom. The rabbi gave him a glass to be filled with water and asked him to keep pouring in. He said, “Rabbi, the glass is full.” The rabbi retorted, “To be wise, first you must empty yourself.” The word complete comes from completus, big enough to fill. Perfect and complete joy can only be found in God. But first, we have to empty ourselves of vainglory and sinfulness, before we can speak “heart to heart” with Jesus and establish a loving friendship with him. To be happy, fill your heart with God.

May 7th

St. Rose Venerini

1st Reading: Acts 15:22–31:
The apostles and elders together with the whole Church decided to choose representatives from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These were Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They took with them the following letter: “Greetings from the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the believers of non-Jewish birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We have heard that some persons from among us have worried you with their discussions and troubled your peace of mind. They were not appointed by us.

But now, it has seemed right to us in an assembly, to choose representatives and to send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We send you then Judas and Silas who themselves will give you these instructions by word of mouth. We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary: You are to abstain from blood from the meat of strangled animals and from prohibited marriages. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” After saying goodbye, the messengers went to Antioch, where they assembled the community and handed them the letter.

Gospel: Jn 15:12–17:
This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead, I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learned from my Father. You did not choose me; it was I who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. This is my command, that you love one another.

Sic transit gloria mundi (Glory is fleeting). Man is obsessed with angst about death. People choose to die because of psychotic self-centeredness (drug-alcohol dependency) and altruism (patriotism). Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. remarked, “I have come to the conclusion that he (the Filipino) is worth dying for because he is the nation’s greatest untapped resource.” Whether motivated by true or false love, dying for self or others is debatable. “Heroes are something we create, something we need … for us to understand what is almost incomprehensible, how people could sacrifice so much for us … they may have fought for their country but they died for their friends.” (Flags of Our Fathers)

Tibetan Book of Living and Dying says it is good to picture one’s own (physical) death daily. (Sogyal Rinpoche) Christianity teaches that mortification (Lat. mortem+facere, to die) is a means to curb one’s inordinate desires through “little deaths” by refraining from delicious food or refreshing drink for some time. Mortification helps us to discipline our willpower and obtain graces. We are asked to die for Christ, not as the martyrs did, but to perform “little deaths” for ourselves and for our best friend, Jesus Christ.

May 8th

1st Reading: Acts 16:1–10:
Paul traveled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They traveled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

Gospel: Jn 15:18–21:
If the world hates you, remember that the world hated me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you. Remember what I told you: the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know the One who sent me.

Shakespeare contrasted love-hate in many of his plays. It’s apparent in Romeo and Juliet and their hateful families, in Othello’s love for his wife and hate of others. Overall, Shakespeare played on the antonymous poles of love and hate, with the latter overshadowing the former. “How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you … I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness … No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you … And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ’s church.” (Ode to Church, Carlo Carretto)

How many times have we walked on cloud nine, when the sun shines? How many times did we blame God when we suffer? If things don’t go right in the church, its leaders and members, why get discouraged? Why not say, “There, but for the grace of God, so go I.” We vacillate between love and hate (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), still God loves us!