06 May, 2019. Monday, 3rd Week of Easter

Monday of Week 3 of Easter

1st Reading: Acts 6:8-15

Stephen’s preaching stirs the crowd: Is he against Moses?

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen as it was called, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Responsorial: Psalm 118: 23-24, 26-27, 29-30

Response: Blessed are they who walk in the way of the Lord

Though princes sit plotting against me
I ponder on your statutes.
Your will is my delight;
your statutes are my counsellors. (R./)
I declared my ways and you answered:
teach me your statutes.
Make me grasp the way of your precepts
and I will muse on your wonders. (R./)
Keep me from the way of error
and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of truth
with your decrees before me. (R./)

Gospel: John 6:22-29

We should work for the food that endures for eternal life

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. or it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Noticing what’s really there

We only see people and things in their true nature if we take the trouble to really look, with an open mind. The Sanhedrin looked on the face of Stephen, and it seemed like that of an angel. Jesus tells the crowd: “You are not looking for me because you have seen signs but because you have eaten your fill of the loaves.” each of us looks at the world in different ways: with wide interest or with narrow bias; with a large heart, seeing signs of goodness everywhere, or with a narrow focus on our personal concerns; with faith that accepts even miracles or with pessimism that sees only the worst in things. As the latin tag has it “Quidquid percipitur, ad modum recipientis percipitur” – roughly equivalent to “Whatever is perceived is understood through the lens of the perceiver.”
Stephen, ordained as a Christian deacon, spent his talents to serve the poor in the community. But he was also an outspoken preacher, and for this he was dragged before the court for speaking against some popular Jewish beliefs. Important, intelligent people were willing to argue about matters of faith, while the poor were going hungry. The members of the Sanhedrin looked angrily at a saint and condemned him as a sinner. Where they should have seen the face of an angel they rejected him as the devil incarnate.
When Jesus fed hungry people in the desert, they were concerned only about the calories that filled their stomachs. They did not ask about food for the spirit, about the goodness of God who cares for them; nor did they inquire about sharing things with others. They did not really listen to what Jesus said, or wonder what it meant for daily life. They simply wanted food. Eventually, John links this multiplication of bread and fish with the Eucharist, Jesus’ very own body and blood given for the life of the world.

Food for eternity

Jesus distinguishes bread that quickly grows stale from the food that lasts into eternal life. He has fed the people with bread and fish, since hunger must be satisfied; but as they continued looking for still more to eat, he invites them to think of spiritual food to would satisfy their deeper desires. He came not just to feed people but to give them the nourishment food of God’s own presence. He reminds us that, while we need material things because we are material beings, our searching must go deeper. There is more to life than satisfying our physical needs. We have deeper, spiritual hunger that must be met if we are to live life to the full and be at peace within ourselves.
Jesus himself is the one who offers us the food of eternal life. He can satisfy the deepest hunger of our hearts. Our seeking must ultimately be directed towards God and, as St Augustine said, “our hearts cannot rest until they rest in God.”

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