Bible Diary for May 14th – 20thBible Diary
Fifth Sunday of Easter
1st Reading: Acts 6:1-7
In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the 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.
2nd Reading: 1 Pt 2:4-9
Beloved: He is the living stone, rejected by people, but chosen by God, and precious to him; set yourselves close to him, so that, you, too, become living stones, built into a spiritual temple, a holy community of priests, offering spiritual sacrifices that please God, through Jesus Christ. Scripture says: See, I lay in Zion a chosen and precious cornerstone; whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.
This means honor, for you who believed, but for unbelievers, also the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone and it is a stone to stumble over, a rock which lays people low. They stumble over it, in rejecting the word, but the plan of God is fulfilled in this.
You are a chosen race, a community of priest-kings, a consecrated nation, a people God has made his own, to proclaim his wonders. For he called you, from your darkness, to his own wonderful light.
Gospel: Jn 14:1-12
Jesus said to his disciples: ”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. 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.”
The specific call and commissioning of the deacons. The common call of all Christians to become living stones – spiritual temples – of God. Those who are so called will do the same works as Jesus did.
Christian vocation is different from other worldly vocations in form and matter. For, a Christian is called by God and commissioned. And the works are being done through him/her – the agency for the call and the task remains with the one who calls. “The Father who dwells in me is doing his own work,” says Jesus. Are we brave and open enough to let God do His work in and through us?
Lord, make me a channel of your redemptive work.
Consecrate this day to God and ask Him to use you as He wills. Observe what happens today.
St. Isidore the Farmer
1st Reading: Acts 14:5-18
A move was made by pagans and Jews, together with their leaders, to harm the apostles and to stone them. But Paul and Barnabas learned of this and fled to the Lycaonian towns of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside, where they continued preaching the Good News.
Paul and Barnabas spent a fairly long time at Lystra. There was a crippled man in Lystra who had never been able to stand or walk. One day, as he was listening to the preaching, Paul looked intently at him and saw that he had the faith to be saved. So he said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man leaped up and began walking.
When the people saw what Paul had done, they cried out in the language of Lycaonia, “The gods have come to us in human likeness!” They named Barnabas Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. Even the priest of the temple of Zeus, which stood outside the town, brought oxen and garlands to the gate; together with the people, he wanted to offer sacrifice to them.
When Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their garments, to show their indignation, and rushed into the crowd, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are human beings, with the same weakness you have, and we are now telling you to turn away from these useless things, to the living God who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them. In past generations, he allowed each nation to go its own way, though he never stopped making himself known; for he is continually doing good, giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, providing you with food, and filling your hearts with gladness.”
Even these words could hardly keep the crowd from offering sacrifice to them.
Gospel: Jn 14:21-26
Jesus said to his disciples: ”Whoever keeps my commandments is the one who loves me. If he loves me, he will also be loved by my Father; I too shall love him and show myself clearly to him.”
Judas—not Judas Iscariot—asked Jesus, ”Lord, how can it be that you will show yourself clearly to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, ”If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him; and we will come to him and live with him. But if anyone does not love me, he will not keep my words; and these words that you hear are not mine, but the Father‘s who sent me.
”I told you all this while I am still with you. From now on the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I have told you.”
Obedience, although not always a sure indicator, is a response of love. It manifests outwardly our desire to please the beloved. Thus Jesus uses the criteria of keeping His commandments in knowing who loves Him or not. But experience tells us that obedience per se is not enough. The reasons behind the obedience are more important than the act itself. For obedience can come from a fearful heart. It can be coerced and demanded. It can also be given under protest.
And so Jesus made it clear that an obedient loving heart is where He and the Father find residence. It is a transformed heart worthy as an abode of the divinity. Hence a transformation in one‘s life accompanies once loving obedience to God. The person is slowly being divinized. The Spirit is understood. That transformed person is at ease with all things divine, so much so that listening and getting instructions from the Spirit is nothing but a normal chore. And this kind of person will never forget the word of the Lord. He or she will always be reminded by the Paraclete, the Divine Helper that comes from above.
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
Jesus said to his disciples: ”Peace be with you! My peace I give to 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. Come now, let us go.”
There is nothing left to do. Jesus has made peace with His fate. He goes to His passion and death with calmness that only a peaceful heart could radiate. It will not soften the violence He will face nor reduce the pain He will endure. But a ready heart confers quiet strength and dignity to one who will be lead to the slaughterhouse later.
And this is the peace that Jesus wants to impart to us. A peace that does not shrink from the evil of this world. On the contrary it took stock of this evil and find it not so intimidating at all. It could postpone or delay our projects in life. It could even halt it temporarily, but good will always triumph in the end. So Jesus prepared His own before evil will take a shot at Him. He reminded them not to be drowned in the horrors that will unfold but to look firmly with hope at His promise to return to take His own to be with Him forever. The separation is but temporary and the reunion will last through eternity.
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 be longed 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
Jesus said to his disciples: ”I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower. 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.”
Pruning is a good agricultural practice. You take something that is not helpful from a plant in order for it to direct its vigor on those that can give better returns. This means that not all growth facilitates fruitfulness. It may just be a distraction that has no value in the end. It just takes precious resources without giving a favorable return. We too are exhorted to practice ”pruning” in our daily life. For Jesus Christ images us as His branches. He is the source of our fecundity. Grafted in Him, we cannot help but lead fruitful lives.
But in time, we sometimes become complacent. The God given sustenance for a fruitful life is not used for its purpose. We become a lifeless, useless appendage of the vine who is Jesus Himself. This is where we become candidates for pruning. We feel the pain, but this is a transformative pain. It is necessary to jumpstart our being productive. As long as we remain with Jesus, our fruitfulness is guaranteed.
St. John I
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
Jesus said to his disciples: ”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.”
Love is a complicated word. It is so powerful that its misuse sometimes lead to fatal consequences. That is why Jesus was careful to pronounce words of love to His disciples. This is not just a feeling that springs from a happy, grateful or magnanimous heart. His love for His disciples is a commitment. He will take responsibility of this love professed to them. That is why He traces the origin of this love. As the Father loved Him so He will love His own. So the Father is the originator of this Love. Jesus has experienced this love and is now willing to share it. He had the love in abundance from His loving Father. He does not need to invent it on His own. So whenever we make an act of love, may it flow from a heart that knew of Jesus‘ love so that it will ultimately connect with the love of the Father.
1st Reading: Acts 15:22-31
Then 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. When they read the news, all were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.
Gospel: Jn 15:12-17
Jesus said to his disciples: ”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 anymore, 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.”
Loving is easy when it does not need much effort and stays on the level of feelings only. It is tested when such loving has a cost. Jesus identified the type of love that His disciples ought to extend to one another. It is a love that is unfazed even if the cost is to give one‘s life for one‘s friend. This selfless love is the new commandment of Jesus.
But why is it that Jesus imposed this commandment to His disciples It seemed to be an impossible task. We are naturally jealous of our own comfort and well-being. Our self-centeredness is not only about vanity. It sometimes is about survival. Perhaps the reason is because Jesus wants to share His very attitude to other people to His friends. He Himself showed them that this is possible. He walked His talk. And so Jesus tells His disciple to adhere to the Law of Love so that they will be known as His friends who shared His life during the end of time.
St. Bernardine of Siena
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
Jesus said to his disciples: ”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.”
Friends share a lot in common. Even their other friends and enemies are sometimes shared too. Ultimately, whatever your friends have will ultimately rub on you. That is why Jesus prepared His friends for the persecutions ahead that will happen. He knows that it is but a matter of time before the world will turn its attention towards His friends.
And so we are truly Jesus‘ friends if we stand by Him at the cost of the world‘s hatred. Standing by with Him in good times is not hard. The benefits sustain our goodwill. It‘s the other way around when one feels the pinch of persecution because of one‘s association with a particular friend. This is where options are made and what is important is identified. If we stand with Jesus, it is an act of faith. It is believing that no matter what happens here, the Lord‘s promise of a good future remains fresh and valid.