Daily Scripture Analysis

Sixth Sunday - Year B - Easter

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Reading 1 (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48)

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him
and, falling at his feet, paid him homage.
Peter, however, raised him up, saying,
"Get up. I myself am also a human being."

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,
"In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him."

While Peter was still speaking these things,
the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.
The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter
were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit
should have been poured out on the Gentiles also,
for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.
Then Peter responded,
"Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,
who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?"
He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Reading 2 (1Jn 4:7-10)

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

Gospel (Jn 15:9-17)

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 may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
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."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: God is love.

            We never see God. It is even more abstract if we talk about the love of Him we never see. But we are fortunate because God chooses to express His love for people through His creation, providence, redemption and sanctification.

            The Church uses today readings to show God’s immense love for people through His works. In the first reading, God showed His love for Cornelius, the Roman officer, through giving him an opportunity to enter the Church. In the second reading, after St. John defined “God is love,” and showed his readers the expression of God’s love through giving us His Only Beloved Son. In the Gospel, God’s love is extending to the apostles through Jesus. Before Jesus’ apostles can love others, they must remain in and be permeated by this love.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: God bestows grace on people before they can respond to His love.

1.1/ God isn’t partial but loves everyone: Cornelius was a Roman officer. Although he was a Gentile; but he feared God, often prayed, and did good things for people (Acts 10:2). Because of these habits, he had a vision in which God’s messenger commanded him to go and to invite Simon Peter to his house.

            The fact that Peter must come to a Gentile’s house is abnormal; but Peter must do it because the Holy Spirit commanded him (Acts 10:20). When Peter recognized God’s arrangement for Cornelius, he clearly declared: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” This shouldn’t be a surprise because God creates all things and gives grace to all people. Whoever recognizes His grace and lives righteously, He continues to bless and gives him an opportunity to understand His love and teachings.

1.2/ God bestowed His Holy Spirit on all members of Cornelius’ household: When Peter was still speaking, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also,for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.” They were astounded because they think that only those who received Baptism could have the Holy Spirit. They don’t know that God doesn’t depend on human tradition or belief. He gives His Holy Spirit to those who fear Him and live according to His way.

            Peter remembered the Pentecost during which all Jesus’ disciples were bestowed the Holy Spirit as the tongues of fire descended upon their head (Acts 2:3-10). Then, Peter declared: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?"He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”

2/ Reading II: God loves us before we recognize and return our love for Him.

2.1/ God is love: There are many different definitions of love; but St. John’s definition is the best and simple, as he defined: “God is love.” St. Thomas Aquinas said “true love is the friendship, which one wishes the best for his friend.” Because of His love for people, God does everything for them through creation, providence, redemption, sanctification and preparing a glorious and happy future for human beings.

            Love is the most important character in human beings because God creates people according to His image and likeness (Gen 1:26). The more people love God and others, the more they resemble God. St. John described the relationship between God’s and our love: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” St. John made a connection between knowledge and love, between the intellect and the will, between God’s and human love in one sentence. Our love for God is measured by our love for others; there is a close connection between faith and love and a harmony between human intellect and will. Therefore, when one loves God and others, he can confidently say that he knows God and is born by God.

            The reverse is also true, "Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love." God creates people with love; whoever refuses to love, can’t belong to God. In Johannine Writings, there are only two main forces in this world: either God or the devil who always opposes God. Whoever refuses to love, belongs to the devil. He is the father of liars and of hatred. This is the reason why John called the one who says that he loves God and hates his brother is a liar. In Matthew, the standard which God shall use to judge people on the Last Day is the commandment of love (cf. Mt 25).

2.2/ The way God expresses His love: Even though John’s definition of love is excellent, but it is purely abstract; he must find a way to concretely express God’s love. He found the way to express God’s love in his gospel, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). In today passage, he expressed the same in different words, “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” The way which God expressed His love is concrete and has power to move people’s mind and heart. Everytime, when people look up to the cross, they must feel God’s love for them, even though they never see Him. John also tied up love and life: If people love, they shall have life both in this world and the next; If they don’t, they shall end up in hatred and death.

            Finally, John emphasized the order of love: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” God loves people when they are still sinners; He doesn’t wait for people to become good or lovable, and then He shall love them. If God does so, people shall have no chance because without God’s grace, people shall die in their sins. People can only love God after He showed His love for them. They can express their love by preaching about God’s love and their love for others.

3/ Gospel: God chose and sent us to preach about His love for all.

3.1/ The commandment of love:

            (1) The origin of love: As in his above Letter, John confirmed that love (agape) originates in God, comes through the Son to his disciples. Jesus revealed this truth: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” The disciples must remain in Jesus’ love before they can love others with this kind of love. After remaining in this love, Jesus commanded them in verse 12, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” This also means if one doesn’t remain in God’s love, he can’t love others with God’s love. He can’t reach the level of perfection as Jesus demanded them, such as: to love one’s enemies, to love until death and to forgive all others’ sins.

            (2) To keep Christ’s commandment is to remain in God’s love: Jesus teaches his disciples: “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.” Love isn’t merely in thought, but must be expressed in deed. The sign which helps people to know with certainty that they love God is to keep His commandments. For example, Jesus knows that he loves God because he always does his Father’s will. Jesus not only taught but also exemplified for his disciples. He doesn’t ask his disciples to do anything that he can’t do: he obeyed his Father in everything even he must accept death; he sacrificed his life to show his true love for the Father and people and he forgave his persecutors on the cross. Jesus encourages his disciples so that they shall have courage to follow him; if he can do these things, the disciples can do the same.

            To keep God’s commandments and to remain in His love aren’t a burden but a secret to have a complete joy as Jesus revealed: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” Jesus knew that if his disciples don’t keep his commandments, they can never reach their final destiny and therefore he shall not be unified with them. The only way they can reach their final destiny and have fully joy with Jesus is to keep his commandments.

3.2/ Jesus chose and called his disciples: Like two first readings, God and Jesus are always the initiators. He chose and called his twelve apostles, not one of them volunteered to follow him. In his public mission, many vonlunteered to follow him but he didn’t let them. In priestly and consecrated vocations, people can’t be volunteered to become priests or religious brothers and sisters, but they must be invited and chosen by God’s representatives.

            (1) Jesus invited his disciples to be his friends: According to human way, love requires a proportion between the lover and the loved. In this way, people can never be God’s friends because there exists an infinite distance between God and human beings; people are only worthy to be His servants. But there is an unthinkable exchange in the mystery of Incarnation: Jesus, though he himself is God, humbly incarnated in a human body to love, to redeem and to raise people up as God’s friends. Jesus revealed this mystery, “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.”

            Jesus chose his disciples not only his friends but also closed friends. People used to sacrifice their life for the closed friends. Jesus is the people’s closed friend because he sacrificed his life for people so that they don’t have to die, as he acclaimed, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” Jesus wanted to have not only a few but also all to become his closed friends. This requires only one condition: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” When we sacrifice our life for others, we become God’s friends.

            (2) Jesus trained and sent them out: God’s love isn’t confined to same people or a nation, but is extended to all people. Jesus chose the Twelve, trained and sent them out to preach about God’s love, "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.”

            Continuing Christ’s mission, the apostles also chose and called their disciples to love, to train and to send them out so they can continue their mission. This mission is still continuing by the Church and only ended at the Last Day.

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - God is the initiator in love; we are only recognized and responded to His love.

            - Love is the base of all God’s works and should be the principle of all our works. Love originates from God and extends to us through Christ. We must remain in this love before we can love others with God’s love.

            - To recognize God’s love, we must keep Jesus’ commandments and sacrifice our life for others as Jesus kept the Father’s commandments and sacrificed his life for people. 

Saturday - Fifth Week - Easter

Reading 1 (Acts 16:1-10):

Paul reached also Derbe and Lystra
where there was a disciple named Timothy,
the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer,
but his father was a Greek.
The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him,
and Paul wanted him to come along with him.
On account of the Jews of that region, Paul had him circumcised,
for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
As they traveled from city to city,
they handed on to the people for observance the decisions
reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem.
Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith
and increased in number.

They traveled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory 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 into Bithynia,
but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them,
so they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.
During the night Paul had a vision.
A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words,
"Come over to Macedonia and help us."
When he had seen the vision,
we sought passage to Macedonia at once,
concluding that God had called us to proclaim the Good News to them.

Gospel (Jn 15:18-21):

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.
Remember the word I spoke to you,
'No slave is greater than his master.'
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: The Holy Spirit helps people to wisely solve their problems.

             

            In daily life of a Christian, there is a time he needs to protect the truth to the point of sacrificing his life; but also a time to wisely adapt according to different cases and environments. How can a Christian recognize when he must sacrifice his life for the truth and when he can adapt according to environments? The answer is that he needs to make his decision according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The Holy Spirit doesn’t appear to tell us what to do; but he shall tell us depending on different environments; for examples, where he wants us to go he shall create opportunity and provide advantageous access; where he doesn’t want us to come, he shall take away opportunity or cause obstacles.

            Today readings help us to recognize the Holy Spirit’s guidance. In the first reading, Paul returned to the churches where he helped to establish to visit, to confirm, and to announce the central Church’s message before he began his second missionary journey. The passage mentioned the Holy Spirit was at work when Paul circumcised Timothy, a Hellenistic citizen, when Paul was prevented to come to Asia Minor and Bithynia, and when Paul was invited to come to Macedonia through a vision. In the Gospel, Jesus foretold that his disciples shall be persecuted from the world as they shall persecute him. The simple reason for this persecution is Jesus and his disciples don’t belong to the world.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: Paul began his second missionary journey.

1.1/ He visited his established churches: When the opportunites came, Paul always came back to the churches which he helped to establish to visit and to confirm their faith. He first came to Derbe, and then to Lystra.

            (1) Paul reveived a disciple: To have more people to contribute to the mission of preaching the Good News, when Paul came to Lystra “there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him,and Paul wanted him to come along with him. On account of the Jews of that region, Paul had him circumcised, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

            Why did Paul circumcised Timothy while he delivered the Jerusalem Church’s message which said nothing about circumcision? The answer is that since the circumcision isn’t related to the salvation, circumcision or not isn’t important. However, there is something which isn’t important with one, but is important to others. The reason why Paul circumcised Timothy because Paul wanted him to accompany him to places where there are Jews so that they shall not cause problems for him.

            (2) Paul handed out the Jerusalem Church’s message: "As they traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decisions reached by the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem.Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number.”

1.2/ Paul acted according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance:

            (1) The Holy Spirit prevented Paul to come to Phrygia and Galatia: The Acts reported: “They traveled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory 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 into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them,so they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.”

            Twice in this passage, the Acts mentioned “the Holy Spirit prevented” and “the Spirit of Jesus didn’t allow” Paul to come to Asia Minor’s cities. The author didn’t say in what way Paul knew the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We can only stipulate that either in a vision or by let Paul meet obstacles from local places.

            (2) The Holy Spirit wanted Paul to come to Macedonia: The Acts continued: "During the night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."When he had seen the vision, we sought passage to Macedonia at once, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.”

            The Holy Spirit wanted to expand the territories in Paul’s second missionary journey, not limited in Asia Minor region but expanded to Europe, beginning with the Hellenistic cities.

2/ Gospel: “You shall be persecuted by the world.”

2.1/ The conflict between God and the world: There are many meanings of the word “world” in the Fourth Gospel; but the meaning of “the world” here is understood as the power opposite with God, such as the devil and its members. There are many conflicts between God and the world that were expressed by John as the conflicts of values, such as: between light and darkness, truth and falsity, good and evil, love and hatred, unity and separation, just and unjust. The Christians are called to live and to witness for divine values which are always opposite with worldly values. The result is that the world shall hate the Christians, as Jesus said: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.”

2.2/ If the world persecuted Jesus, they shall also persecute his disciples: Jesus warned his disciples of persecution: “Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No slave is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.”

            Jesus spent all of his life to teach people, to heal them from all kind of diseases and to expel demons; the world returned favor by persecution, condemnation, scourging and nailing him to the cross. Jesus’ disciples can’t avoid these punishments. If one reads the Acts and the history of the Church, one can see many of these punishments which Christ’s disciples endured to witness for him.

            In brief, the world opposes the Christians because they bear Christ’s name. When one chooses to have that name, he chose to be persecuted by the world. The world hates the Christians because they don’t belong to them and don’t live according to their ways and standards.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - We need to open up our soul to live according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. One of the signs to recognize his guidance is to rely on opportunity and environment. If he wants, he shall create opportunity and provide proper access; it not, he shall send obstacles.

            - There is a time we need to protect and to witness for the truth; there is also a time to adapt for a better result depending on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

            - To be Christ’s disciples is to be persecuted by the world. The simple reason is the world doesn’t know Christ neither accepts the gospel’s values.

Friday - Fifth Week - Easter

Reading 1 (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."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: Love is the key for survival.

            We learn many important things from the early Jerusalem Church in her solving of conflicts, causing by the transition from Judaism to Christianity. First, they solved the problems together. Next, they followed the Holy Spirit’s guidance to recognize: what is the fundamental doctrines which must be kept; what can be adapted and dispensed. Then, they were humble and courageously dismissed their habits of thinking to accept the common decision. Lastly, they solved problems with their fraternal love, not as between a master and his slaves or the central leaders and its workers. Because of their wise and proper resolution, the early Church avoided schism and built up unity. This also helped the Good News to expand in the world instead of being confined in Jerusalem and identified as Judaism.

            Today readings highlight the important keys to solve conflicts in the Church or a community. In the first reading, the Church solved her problems according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and Christ’s love. The apostles decided not to put any more burden on the Gentiles’ shoulder save critical things. In the Gospel, Jesus emphasized especially on the commandment of love. His disciples must do all thing out of love as he loves them. They can’t treat others as master and slaves, but as their friends as Christ treated them.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation.

1.1/ The ways the Church in Jerusalem solve her problems: They did three important things:

            (1) They chose the representatives of the central Church to explain their messages for the local churches. The Acts reported, “Then 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.”

            (2) They sent the official messages: Since rumors and fabricators cause suspicision, separation and fighting in community, the Jerusalem Church recognized these dangers and highlighted them in their letter: “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.”

            (3) They officially declared Paul and Barnabas as the leaders: The Jerusalem Church also recognized the important positions of Paul and Barnabas, not only for the local churches but also for the whole Church: We send our representatives “to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Church should pay respect for local leaders.

1.2/ The content of their message: Based of Peter and James’ opinions from yesterday, the central Church decided: “So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth.”

            (1) The decision isn’t entirely human: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden." The Jerusalem Church emphasized on both “the Holy Spirit” and “us.” This shows that the Church isn’t purely as an organization as others in the world, but has a heavenly origin. The Church acted under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The conclusion wasn’t by individuals but the whole Church after prayer and conversation.

            (2) What the Gentiles must observe:“namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.” These necessary things which the Church commands both the Jews and the Gentiles to keep them.

2/ Gospel: “This I command you: love one another.”

2.1/ The commandment of love: "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”Jesus commanded many things but this can be said the basic commandment because it covers all other commandments. Love isn’t simple as many think, but has its origin from God. People must have this kind of love before they can satisfy Jesus’ command: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.”

2.2/ The friendship between Jesus and his disciples: The apostles might think their relationship with Jesus as of between a master and his slaves or disciples, because Jesus is God who creates and control all things. He has a right to command and people have a duty to do it. The relationship between a master and his disciples, though a closer relationship, still has a big difference between them because the master can command his disciples to do his will. The apostles could never think they can become Jesus’ friends as he said today: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” That is the only condition to become Jesus’ friends and his main commandment is to love each other. The sign of friendship is to freely do good for one’s friends.

            (1) The difference between friends and slaves: Jesus emphasized the difference: “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.” The special character between friends is that they share with each other all things: happiness, suffering, joy and sadness. Jesus revealed all what he sees in the Father to the apostles; shared all joy and sadness with them during his three years of public mission; washed their feet as a slave, and is ready to sacrifice his life for them. Jesus really treated them as his closed friends.

            (2) Jesus chose his apostles for a mission: “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.” Jesus emphasized on God’s role in calling and selecting the apostles. He chose them, not they chose him. He chose them when they still had many human weakness and limitation; but he trained, sanctified and sent them out for a mission which is to bring people to God.

            The thing which surprise us most after Jesus’ resurrection is the complete change in the apostles, from the illiterate and fearful to the wise, courage and dare to face the Sandherin, and they couldn’t answer the apostles. In other words, Christ bestows on them all necessary things so they can fulfill their mission.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - When there is a conflict in our family or community, we should follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance to find out the truth and to discard all selfishness and jealousy hidden in us.

            - We must also be humble to accept the truth and to solve problem on the foundation of love, not on the power to command as between a master and his servants.

            - We must have courage to recognize our mistakes and correct them. We should love, encourage and help each other in preaching and witnessing for the gospel.

Thursday - Fifth Week - Easter

Reading 1 (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."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: What are the basic principles of Christianity?

             

            Continuing of what we discussed yesterday about what are the basic doctrines of Christianity which both the Jews and the Gentiles must keep, and what aren’t necessary which can be adapted according to each nation’s tradition and culture.

            Today readings help us to recognize the core of the conflict through the contributing of some important figures’ opinion. In the first reading, after praying together, Peter offered his opinion: Since the Holy Spirit is given to both Jews and Gentiles; since the faithful are purified by faith, not by the law; and since people are saved by grace, not by their own effort, we can’t command the Gentiles to be circumcised and to keep all the laws as the Jews. After Peter, James, the Episcopos of Jerusalem, voiced his opinion to defend the Gentiles as follows: According to the prophets, the Gentiles are also included in God’s plan of salvation; therefore, we should not command the Gentiles to be circumcised and to keep the Jewish tradition. We should write a letter and advise them three things: not to eat meat which offered for idols, not to have unlawful marriage, and not to eat the meat of strangled animals, and blood. In the Gospel, Jesus paid a special attention to the commandment of love as the foundation of Christianity: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.”

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: The apostles gave their opinions about what need to be applied for the Gentiles.

1.1/ Simon Peter’s opinion: After many discussion, Peter, as the Church’s leader, stood up and said: “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.” Peter mentioned three main reasons why they should not command the Gentiles to be circumcised and to keep all the law according to the Jewish tradition.

            (1) God bestows His Spirit on the apostles at the Pentecost and also on the Gentiles: Peter already witnessed these moments, so he said to them: “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us.” This was the reason why he baptized Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and all the members of his house (Acts 10:44-48).

            (2) People are saved by faith in Christ, not by keeping of the law: God uses faith to purify their minds and hearts, not the law. Here, as also in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he compared the law as a slave’s yoke (Gal 5:1): "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?" He meant that even the Jews, including them, couldn’t keep all the laws. This is exactly the reason why Christ came to liberate them from this yoke, and substituted the law with the faith in him.

            (3) People are saved by God’s grace, not by human efforts: Both Peter and Paul experienced their weakness and shortcomings, they weren’t afraid to accept them and emphasized on God’s grace. Peter declared: “On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”

1.2/ James’ opinion, the episcopos of Jerusalem: Though he was a strict observance of the law, he also defended the Gentiles.

            (1) The Gentiles are also incuded in God’s plan of salvation: First of all, he declared that the Gentiles are also included in God’s plan of salvation as the prophets announced long time ago. He illustrated the prophet Amos’s prophecy: “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” (Amo 9:11-12; cf. Jer 12:15).

            (2) James’ conclusion: “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.”

            - Avoid pollution from idols: The belief that if anyone eats the meat that sacrificed to idols, he shall be liked him. Similarly, if the faithful eat and drink Christ’s body and blood, they shall become like Christ (1 Cor 10:20). Therefore, a person can’t attend both God’s table and the idol’s table (1 Cor 10:21). Paul also said that when someone eats such kind of food, there is no sin because there is no other gods except God, but shall cause a scandal for those who have a weak faith (1 Cor 8:1-13).

            - Avoid fornication (porneia) (Lev 18:6-18:26): This is included in the sixth and the nineth commandments. There are some Greek people who don’t consider fornication as a sin. In such a nation, Christ’s teaching about purity is new to them.

            - Avoid the meat of strangled animals, and blood: To the Jews, blood is the symbol of life; to eat blood is to destroy life. Life belongs to God and men have no power over life (Lev 17:10-14, Gen 9:4). James wanted to advise the Gentiles to eat animals’ meat according to Jewish way which means they must cut the animal and let all its blood drain out.

2/ Gospel: The commandment of love is the foundation of Christianity.

            (1) The relationship between God and people is achieved through Christ: Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” If we need to simplify Christianity, we can call Christianity is the religion of love, “to love God and to love others.” Love is expressed through obedience, " 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." Jesus wants people to keep his commandments because they are good for people; but people don’t always recognize it.

            (2) The result of love is that people have fully joy: The purpose of Christianity isn’t to confine people in the law; but to help people to have God’s fully joy, as Jesus said to his disciples: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - We are saved not by our effort to keep the law, but by our faith in Christ with the help of God’s grace.

            - The principal doctrine of Christianity is the commandment of love. God is love and He bestows His love for people through Christ, and He wants people to love each other with the same love.

            - The purpose of Christianity is for people to have God’s complete joy, not to confine people in rigid laws to burden them.

Wednesday - Fifth Week - Easter

Reading 1 (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."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: What are the basic doctrines of Christianity?

            The coexistence of Christianity and other cultures dates back to the apostolic age. Before his Ascension, Jesus instructed his disciples to spread his teachings to the ends of the earth (Mk 28:28, Mk16:15) but did not tell them how. Meanwhile, every nation on earth has tradition and culture which need to be respected. When Christianity is evangelized in a nation, the missionary need to do a careful research of its tradition and culture. The purpose is for that nation to welcome the Christian faith without destroying its tradition and culture.

            Today readings show us the importance of inculturation. In the first reading, the early Church must face many conflicts when shifting from Judaism to Christianity. The basic question is that what the Church must keep or discard in order for the Gentiles to join the Church. For example, do the Gentiles have to be circumcised and to keep the law of purification when they join the Church? In the Gospel, Jesus gave us the most important doctrine of Christianity which is to live the intimate relationship between the believers and Christ as the branches and the vine. Without this relationship, everything else are meaningless.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: Does one need to be circumcised and keep all the law to be saved?

1.1/ According to some Pharisees who were converted to Christianity: The Gentiles must be circumcised and keep all the law.

            (1) The circumcision: Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved." Circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 17). Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth (Lk 2:21); Paul was also circumcised (Phi 3:5). By circumcision, the Jews know that they belong to God’s chosen people and Abraham’s descendants.

            However, the importance of the covenant is faith and love God; circumcision is the outward sign to indicate their inside faith and love. If someone is circumcised and has no faith and love for God, can that one belong to God’s people? Other nations also have their custom of circumcision. The prophet Jeremiah often emphasize the need of circumcision in heart and mind. God loves justice and love more than circumcision (Jer 4:4, 9:24-26).

            (2) The law: First of all, there is a need to differentiate between God’s and human law. God’s law can never be changed and all people must keep them. Human laws are made by people, can be changed.

            - The law is officially the Ten Commandments which God gave to the Israelites through Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exo 20:1-17). This law is never changed and all people, the Jews and the Gentiles must keep it.

            - The human laws can be written or oral tradition; for examples, the law of purification or the detailed law about keeping holy of the Sabbath, etc. The Gentiles have no obligation to keep these laws. Jesus himself often argued with the Pharisees and the scribes about these laws and corrected them, “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Mt 15:3, cf. Mk 7:3-13).

1.2/ According to Paul and Barnabas: The Gentiles have no tradition to keep the law of circumcision and purification as the Jews. Moreover, the history of salvation enters the new stage which includes the Gentiles. “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.”

            We don’t know what were their arguments when they argued with the Pharisees, but according to what Paul wrote in his Letters, especially the Romans and the Galatians, we can draw out some of his main arguments: First, people are saved not by being circumcised and keeping the law, but by their faith in Christ. Secondly, when Jesus came, he brought the law to its fulfillment; therefore, the faithful must keep Christ’s law which is more demanding than the old law. Lastly, people don’t need to be a Jew before they become a Christian because Christ has incarnated, died and resurrected.

            Although the conflicts of the circumcision and the law were solved by the first Council of Jerusalem, it is still a lesson for us in the present world. Everytime we face that kind of confliction, we need to sit down and to analyze what are important things we must keep and what aren’t important we can adapt or discard. To tell a Gentile or a nation to follow one culture or one tradition in practicing the Christian faith easily prevent the expansion of the Good News. A practical example near our generation is the worship of ancestors in the Oriental culture.

2/ Gospel: To live our intimate relationship with Christ is more important than anything else.

            To live the relationship between people and God is the center of Christianity; therefore, whatever leads people to God and helps this relationship to develop is more necessary. In today passage, Jesus compared the relationship between him and his disciples as follows: “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.” This relationship is based on three important things:

            (1) Scripture: is necessary for people to know who is God, what He desires for people, what He did, is doing and shall do for people. Scripture has power to “prune,” to expel all what are impure and evil in human beings, as Jesus said, “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.”

            (2) Sacraments: help to convey divine life and grace to human beings. The image of the branches which need the vine’s nourishment to live and to bear fruits, illustrates the necessary of sacraments, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus said to his disciples: “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.”

            (3) Keeping commandments: Good fruits are good works that people do to God and others, such as: to believe and to love God; to keep His commandments; to do good deeds for others. When people bear good fruits, they are glorifying God.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - In the area of faith, we need to pay attention to the relationship between people and God, expressed by practical deeds.

            - When we have conflicts about tradition, culture or values, we need to pray and to solve them together, to recognize what relates to doctrines and needs to be kept, what needs to be adapted with the present situation and what can be discarded.

            - To tell others to follow our tradition or culture shall easily lead to separation and prevent the Good News to expand to all places and people.

Tuesday - Fifth Week - Easter

 

Readings: Acts 14:19-28; Jn 14:27-31.

1/ First Reading: NAB Acts 14:19 However, 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. 20 But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and entered the city. On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. 21 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. 22 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." 23 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. 24 Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. 25 After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. 27 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. 28 Then they spent no little time with the disciples.

2/ Gospel: NAB John 14:27 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. 28 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. 29 And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. 30 I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, 31 but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.


Written by: Fr. Anthony Tien M. Dinh, O.P. 

I. THEME: Glory is achieved through sufferings.

            In order to have a good harvest, farmers must go through hard works under scorching heat and cold rain. Similarly in spiritual field, the faith of believers is the result of the missionary’s hard works and sacrifices. They weren’t weary of long distance, danger, suffering, jealousy, persecution and even death to sow the seed of faith, to confirm the weak, and to establish communities of believers.

            Today readings want to illustrate the missionaries’ toils in bringing out faith in believers. In the first reading, the Acts reported hardships and persecution which Paul and Barnabas must go through on their first missionary journey to the Gentiles. Even in the midst of these harships, they were still persevered and went from city to city to sow the seed of faith, to confirm the weak and to establish local churches. When they returned to Antioch, the place where they started, they gathered all the faithful and reported to them what God has achieved for the Gentiles through them. In the Gospel, though Jesus knew many sufferings are waiting for him in the Passion, he is still courageously coming forward to face them. He also advised his disciples not to worry and be fearful because he shall grant them his peace. He also guaranteed that God’s power shall triumph over worldly power.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

1.1/ Wherever Paul went, the Jews followed him there: The Acts reported some sufferings which Paul went through on his missionary journey: “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.”

            The city which Paul was stoned supposed to be Lystra, the sixth city of his first missionary journey. We can see Paul’s perseverance and courage in the preaching of the Good News. He had just received some good results from his toil, the Jews of Antioch and Iconium, the two cities that Paul passed by, came to destroy his work. Not only that, they wanted to destroy his life by stoning him to death. Even so, when they thought he was already dead, they threw him out of the city, he arose and came to other city to preach the Good News. It seems to us that nothing can extinguish his zeal of preaching God’s words, and God’s power is with him.

            Another thing we can learn from Paul and Barnabas is to come back to the place where they evangelized to confirm the believers’ faith and the newly formed communities. They advised them to firmly keep their faith in the midst of sufferings, "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."It is so obvious that the faithful can’t enter God’s kingdom without going through sufferings.

           

1.2/ Paul and Barnabas completed the first missionary journey: In their first journey, they started from Antioch of Syria to Salamis and Paphos of Cyprus, to Perga, Antioch of Psidia, to Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and followed their earlier way to come back to Perga, and from Perga to Attalia, returned to Pergha and used ship to return to Antioch of Syria. This is the shortest of three Paul’s missionary journeys to the Gentiles. They traveled through eight cities. In each local community, they appointed presbyters for them, and with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.

            When they arrived Antioch, 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.

2/ Gospel: “Now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”

2.1/ Christ’s peace: Jesus knew that his Passion is near and what shall happen to his disciples, so he left a most precious gift for them: “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.” Peace is also the gift which God’s angels announced on the day that Jesus was born: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:14).

            Jesus emphasized the difference between his peace and worldly peace. God’s peace comes from human mind while worldly peace depends on outside circumstance. God’s peace can never be lost while worldly peace is so fragile. We can recognize this fragility in war and society, peace can be lost anytime where there is a conflict.

            God’s peace is based on the truth and guaranteed by God. Jesus temporally left this world to return to his Father, then he shall return to his disciples after his Passion, Death and Resurrection. The peace that the disciples shall have is the result of witnessing all these events. If Jesus was victorious over death and is living to intercede with the Father for them, there is nothing to be afraid or worry about; therefore they always have peace.

2.2/ The conflict between God and the world: Jesus warned his disciples that they shall be persecuted by the world because they don’t live according to worldly standards. Jesus also knew the world is going to persecute him, and so he said to his disciples, “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. Get up, let us go.”

            The Jewish leaders thought that they used their power to kill Jesus and to end their worry about him; but the truth is they only did God’s will. God wants His Son to suffer to take away people’s sin and to bring eternal life for people. When Jesus resurrects, the world is startled. They thought they are victorious but they miserably failed, because the faithful are no longer slavery for them.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - Faith is the priceless gift which God bestows on us through the missionary’s effort and sacrifice. They left their family and country, accepted many sufferings and hardships from the countries they evangelized to give us this precious gift. We should never despise this gift.

            - Our duty is to preserve and to confirm this faith. We also have a duty to propagate this faith in our children and unbelievers. If we receive the faith free of charge, we must also freely give.

            - An advice for Vietnamese youth: To have this faith, the missionary and our forefathers must sacrifice their life and suffer persecution, scourging and prison. Let live our faith corresponding with their precious blood.