3rd Week of Easter, Monday, April 19
Acts 6:8-15 / John 6:22-29
Today and in the next few days, two unrelated Scripture texts run parallel – Stephen’s martyrdom presented as an imitation of the martyrdom of Christ and the Eucharistic discourse of Jesus, as given in John 6 after the multiplication of bread. Jesus confronts us today with the question:“Why are you looking for me?” Why are we looking for God, for Jesus? Is it merely for the things he gives us? We receive much from God, but do we look for Jesus himself, for what he means in our lives? Let us look to get closer to him and to become more like him. He asks us for faith in his person and mission.
One of the seven deacons was Stephen. Being a Hellenist, he went to the Synagogue of the Freedmen. The Freedmen were former slaves. When Pompey had annexed Palestine, he took many Jews with him to Rome and sold them as slaves. Many were freed and joined the same synagogue. Stephen proposed to them his idea of a "Church for the world". God could not be worshipped only in one temple. No building can confine the Infinite. No law can be enforced with those highly cultured Greeks and Romans that is not fulfilling a purpose. They argued and debated. Stephen proved every point from Scripture. These the most sensitive issues: The temple and the law. As always, the volume of the voice took the place of the force of an argument. They hired false witnesses. This is exactly what happened in the case of Jesus. Stephen was dragged before the Sanhedrin. The accusations were the same. The members of the Sanhedrin saw before them a spiritual man. He had meditated the Bible. They felt the presence of God in him. That made him convincing.
Jesus speaks about hunger; "Spiritual hunger demands spiritual food. "
There are over six billion people in the world. More than a half billion of these people suffer from chronic physical hunger and malnutrition. We have heard this statistic so often that it no longer makes a great impact on us. But there is a more frightening statistic about hunger that is never mentioned. It's the statistic that of the four billion people in the world, perhaps three billion or more are suffering from chronic spiritual hunger and malnutrition.
This is the point Jesus makes in today's gospel. That's why he tells the people to seek not just "body" food but also "soul" food— "food that endures for eternal life."
It is often said: “Be careful as to what you pray for. You might receive it.” It might mean that not everything we ask for is good for us. It could also mean that we might ask for a lesser good and miss out on a greater good which was there for the asking. Today Jesus cautions us against missing out what is truly worth asking for. “Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life.” How often we find people frequenting places of worship for financial benefits and physical healing! Not that they are not worth asking for. But if only we asked more for “higher things,” things that matter for the soul! Let us not be satisfied with the many tangible gifts our God gives us. Instead, let us continuously pray and work for the greatest of gifts: the very person of God as our inheritance.
To what extent might we be suffering from chronic spiritual hunger and malnutrition? Chronic spiritual hunger and malnutrition is more of a threat to modern society than is chronic physical hunger and malnutrition.
This most astonishing miracle, the multiplication of loaves should have had one effect: A readiness for faith in Christ. Readiness to believe is only possible where there is a pure intention. As long as the people seek only material benefits from the practice of their religion, faith lasts only as long as the benefits are received. Faith means to hear and accept what God reveals to man. It is openness to truth. The miracle is only the seal God attaches to his revelation. It is a sign that God confirms the words. The readiness to believe leads to doing what God demands. As Jews they think it is doing what the law demands that leads to salvation. Faith in him is the irreplaceable condition. Faith is not only to believe in God but also belief in Christ whom God has sent. Of this, the miracle is the sign.
Our living God, we hunger for lasting life and happiness and the fulfillment of all our hopes. Satisfy all our hungers through your Son, Jesus Christ, who is our bread of life. And when he has filled us with himself, may he lead and strengthen us to bring to a waiting world the food of reconciliation and joy, which you alone can give to the full. We ask this thorough Christ our Lord. Amen