Daily Bread ~ Scriptural Reflection

 

Fifth Week of Easter

 

Mon., May 15 | Acts 14:5-18; Jn 14:21-26

Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them. My neighbor Marta, here in Honduras, is very devoted to San Judas. In English we distinguish between Judas Iscariot, the traitor, and Judas, “not the Iscariot,” by rebranding the latter as St. Jude. Spanish does not have that option, so we need to spend a few minutes at Marta’s celebration every October 28 drawing the distinction. But, you know, most of us probably have a little of each Judas in us, the plotting to deceive Jesus for our own gain, and the humble yearning that emerges in the good Judas’ question: “Master, what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give the glory! MD

 

Tues., May 16 | Acts 14:19-28; Jn 14:27-31a

The world must know that I love the Father. Is this the dearest line in the Christian Scripture? A lovely, simple declaration that is so open, so sincere, so vulnerable, maybe even heartbreaking, since in just a matter of hours, Jesus himself will cry out to the Father, “Why have you abandoned me?” Does the world know that we love the Father now? And how would it know? Maybe because we live the peace Jesus left to us as his final testament? “My peace,” he called it. “Not as the world gives, do I give it to you.” So, a peace the world would call weakness, failure, surrender? Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord, and let all your faithful ones bless you! MD

 

Weds., May 17 | Acts 15:1-6; Jn 15:1-8

It was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question. The Council of Jerusalem! The infant church is in crisis: must Gentiles be circumcised, or are all Christians created equal? It reminds me of Alcoholics Anonymous, where the 12 Steps are in the past tense because they are the fruit of experience: This is what works! Peter baptized the Roman Cornelius; Paul and Barnabas have blanketed Asia Minor with gentile Christians for over a decade. So it’s not a theoretical question. Are we going to re-Pharisee the Church? Jesus already warned us: “Without me, you can do nothing.” I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the House of the Lord!” MD

 

Thurs., May 18 | Acts 15:7-21; Jn 15:9-11

God bore witness by granting the Gentiles the Holy Spirit just as he did to us. The Council of Jerusalem was a beautiful thing. Bottom line: “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.” When Pope Francis says that he’s labeled a globalist! But Francis is just trying to rev the church up to its first-century speed. Peter asks, Why put “a yoke on the shoulders of the disciples that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?” James agrees: “We ought to stop troubling the Gentiles.” Too good to be true? Some scholars say the Council of Jerusalem never happened. But when James calls Peter Symeon, a unique detail otherwise unexplained, it’s like a watermark to authenticate Luke’s history. Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all you lands! MD

 

Fri., May 19 | Acts 15:22-31; Jn 15:12-17

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you. The Council of Jerusalem issues its final report: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us, not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities.” The audacity! The Holy Spirit and the church equal partners! When Pope Francis set about to open wide the gates of mercy, he felt the same confidence from the original motivation of Pope (now Saint) John XXIII for the Second Vatican Council to the fountainhead of mercy opened by Saints Faustina and John-Paul II. Mercy is the practical application of Jesus’ word: “Love one another as I love you,” a commandment because it does not come naturally! I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O Lord, for your mercy towers to the heavens! MD

 

Sat., May 20 | Acts 16:1-10; Jn 15:18-21

We sought passage to Macedonia at once, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the Good News to them. The Apostles are making history every day in Acts, but this moment is especially meaningful for us. “We” means that Acts is not just a history. It’s a memoir: Luke the Gentile and Paul the Pharisee united in one great mission. Paul has a vision of a man pleading, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” And off they go. Jesus has a vision, too, and it’s not pretty: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” Even worse, “They will do all these things to you on account of my name.” Your kindness, O Lord, endures forever, and your faithfulness, to all generations! MD

 

 

Sixth Week of Easter

 

Mon., May 22 | Acts 16:11-15; Jn 15:26-16:4a

If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home. Lydia provides a model of the open heart to the Lord. Clearly searching, she joins other women in prayer outside the city, a city that lacks a synagogue and prohibits sharing the words of the law with women. When Paul willingly prays with the women, something clicks. Lydia boldly takes the next step — baptism — not only for herself but for her entire household and she doesn’t stop there. She offers an open invitation of hospitality. Paul, Silas and Luke come to rely on her generosity, regularly using her home for renewal. When the Lord opens Lydia’s heart to hear Paul’s words, she opens herself and graciously accepts her role of service. Lord, give me the grace to offer all I am and all that I have. PR

 

Tues., May 23 | Acts 16:22-34; Jn 16:5-11

He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds. After being arrested, beaten and imprisoned, Paul and Silas miraculously are freed from their bonds during an earthquake. They minister to their suicidal jailer, who joyfully hears the word of the Lord, opens his home to them, and is baptized along with his entire family. We see a familiar pattern in Paul’s missionary journeys. He and his companions encounter people in spiritual need or emotional and physical distress, and the Lord opens them to listen to his word spoken through Paul. Their natural response is the desire for baptism. The grace of baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit are evident in their actions as new creations enthusiastically witnessing to the faith through hospitality, repentance and service. Lord, help us to live our baptismal call every day. PR

 

Wed., May 24 | Acts 17:15, 22 — 18:1; Jn 16:12-15

I walked around looking carefully at your shrines.... Although distressed by the Athenians’ idol worship, Paul doesn’t immediately dismiss their religious practices, but acknowledges their devotion. Then he shows how their altar to an unknown God reveals their longing for the one true God. He uses what’s already familiar to them, including the words of their poets, to show that even if they don’t know who they’re worshipping, he does. Before he introduces Scripture or preaches, he observes, notes what is admirable, and seeks common understanding. Though he confronts their pagan beliefs and teaches the truth, he also highlights their similarities rather than differences. Lord, help us to gently and respectfully challenge disbelief. PR

 

Thurs., May 25 | Acts 18:1-8; Jn 16:16-20

From now on I will go to the Gentiles. With Silas and Timothy’s arrival, Paul has the chance to focus primarily on preaching. When he’s opposed and reviled, he recognizes that he has reached a dead end, and he places responsibility back on the Jews for the consequences of their rejection. It’s a tough but necessary lesson for Paul, his prospective converts, and for us. Paul was fully committed to sharing the truth. He didn’t exclude anyone from the message. He adapted his style as necessary to fit the audience, but he knew when to move on. Despite our best efforts, we’ll face opposition and outright rejection. We must be grateful for our success, patient with our failures, and wise enough to know when to redirect. Guide me, Lord, how and where I can best do your will. PR

 

Fri., May 26 | Acts 18:9-18; Jn 16:20-23

Philip Neri, priest

Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. Over a period of ten years, Paul undertakes three major missionary journeys that increasingly span the Mediterranean. He travels on foot or by small boat. The conditions are dangerous. The message he shares is challenging and controversial. He’s opposed, beaten, stoned, left for dead, and imprisoned, yet he keeps going. He knows that God will protect him and that the message God calls him to preach is taking root. His sacrifices help build the church; God works miracles through him and can do the same with us. Help me to trust, Lord, that with your help and in your name, I can do great things. PR

 

Sat., May 27 | Acts 18:23-28; Jn 16:23b-28

The brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. We see the fruits of Paul’s efforts — converts boldly and eloquently preaching, assisting and encouraging one another, and guiding each other to grow in knowledge of the Way. We also see Apollos’ humility and Priscilla and Aquila’s tenderness when they help Apollos become better equipped to preach about Jesus. Apollos is well educated, knowledgeable about Scripture, and enthusiastic. His message about Jesus is accurate, but limited. He’s grateful for Priscilla and Aquila when they quietly take him aside, fill in the gaps of his understanding, and support him when he desires to go forth — now fully prepared. Give us, Lord, a humble spirit, gentle teachers, and full knowledge of your power and glory. PR

 

 

Seventh Week of Easter

 

Mon., May 29 | Acts 19:1-8; Jn 16:19-33

Memorial Day (USA)

Take courage, I have conquered the world. We adopted three boys from Guatemala, two as infants, and the third when he was already 10 years old. Weary of bureaucracy, we delayed his immigration hearing until he was 14 and could speak for himself. He was asked a series of routine questions, including, “Will you bear arms on behalf of the United States if required by law?” My son looked troubled and whispered, “What if the United States went to war with Guatemala?” The interviewer gently told him he could perform noncombatant service. On this Memorial Day as the United States remembers those who have fallen in battle, I wonder if we will ever remember that we are all connected? Or, that Jesus has conquered the world and we don’t have to? For those who have died in war and all those in harm’s way. PBS

 

Tues., May 30 | Acts 20:17-27; Jn 17:1-11a

I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. These would be great last words! My best friend always said that she wanted to die quickly but with plenty of time to prepare. Maybe we realize this by practicing these last words every evening before sleep. Did I glorify God by accomplishing the work given to me this day? Did I ease another’s burdens? Did I enjoy the blessings of today? Did I acknowledge the good and forgive the bad? My friend got her wish. She went quickly — a stroke in her sleep. But she prepared every day, generous with her love and enjoying her life to the last, including the Girl Scout cookies we brought her the afternoon before she died. I checked. The package was open and there were several missing. I’m so glad. For the grace to live fully each day as you would have us live. PBS

 

Wed., May 31 | Zep 3:14-18a or Rom 12:9-16;
Lk 1:39-56

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord… I’ve sung at least twenty settings of the Magnificat. Chants. Ballads. Hymns. Sweet. Extra Sweet. My favorite of the moment is by Rory Cooney, an arrangement he calls Canticle of the Turning. It’s accessible people’s music, easily sung by all to a driving rhythm that makes you want to stomp in time. It’s not sweet. And neither is the original text: scattering the proud, casting down the mighty, lifting up the lowly, filling the hungry, sending the rich away empty. This is not passive, feel-good religion. This is a religion that was designed and continues “to turn the world around.” Lord Jesus Christ, give us the grace to play our small part in the transfiguration of the world. PBS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Bread Authors from Celebration
Paige Byrne Shortal, longtime contributor to Celebration, serves as coordinator and editor for the Daily Bread writers.
Miguel Dulick lives in a mountain village in Honduras, Central America. Originally from St. Louis, he holds degrees from St. Louis University and Weston School of Theology, Boston.
Mary Joshi lives in Moncton, NB, Canada. Raised Catholic and married to a Hindu, Mary helps coordinate the RCIA for her parish unit and is a reflection writer for the parish bulletin. She holds degrees in history, English and deaf education.
Jeanne Lischer grew up in St. Louis and Ghana, West Africa, where her parents were missionaries. She is a graduate of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, was ordained in 1990 in the United Church of Christ, and is currently the pastor for two rural congregations in Missouri.
Patricia Russell graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., with degrees in English and secondary education
 
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