3rd Week of Easter, Wednesday, April 21
Acts 8:1-8 / John 6:35-40
Jesus speaks about eternal life; "Whoever believes in me will have eternal life. "
When Werner von Braun died, Time magazine called him the 20th-century Columbus. Before he died, von Braun gave this testimony concerning life after death:"I think science has a real surprise for the sceptics …. Nothing in nature, not even the tiniest particle, can disappear without a trace. Nature does not know extinction. All it knows is transformation…"Everything science has taught me — and continues to teach me— strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death."
How firmly do we believe in Jesus' promise of eternal life? "If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might the heart of man become in its long journey to the stars?" Gilbert Keith Chesterton
With the death of Stephen, a persecution started in Jerusalem. Christians had to flee. God wanted them to be seeds driven by the wind. They had to bring the Christian message to the holy land, to Samaria and Judaea. "Those who escaped went from place to place to spread the Good News" (verse 4). Those who had to flee were especially the Hellenists. The Hebrews, to whom belonged the twelve Apostles, could remain. They were frequent visitors of the temple. The Hellenists, who were not so rooted in a place, had greater mobility. They were more fit to become missionaries. Philip, the deacon, and a companion of Stephen's, went to Samaria. "The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached" (verse 6). They heard it or had seen the miracles Philip had worked. There was great rejoicing in that town as a result.
The fervor of the young Church is so contagious, that even in persecution Christians use the occasion of the persecution itself to preach the risen Christ. Indeed, God does not abandon the Church, even in moments of trial. The reading from Acts says that there was even great joy over the signs of the Lord’s presence. There is also a great joy in the Gospel where we hear Jesus says that he is our bread of life: not only will he later give himself as bread to eat, but his word and message are for us real bread of life, something to live by and to live for.
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” What exactly are we praying for? What is this “daily bread”? This particular word epiousios (rendered as “daily”) does not occur anywhere else in the New Testament, and thus has a unique reference. In one sense, we are praying for our many material needs, the bread that sustains our physical life. But from yesterday’s gospel reading we know that Jesus wants us to labor for the bread that feeds our soul. Thus, over and above the physical “bread” that meets our physical needs, Jesus wants us to pray for the “daily bread” that sustains our spiritual life. And what is this bread? He tells us today: “I am the bread of life.” Anyone who receives him as his or her daily bread will never be hungry or thirsty. How do we receive him as the bread of life? We do, in the word of God and in the Eucharist that is the sacrament of sacraments. Ideally, we must receive this daily bread on a daily basis—see the double emphasis in the prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” How regular is my feeding on the Word and the Eucharist?
If we can
remember the beginning lines of the novel "A tale of two cities"
(Charles Dickens), it goes like this: "It was the best of times, it was
the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it
was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of
Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the
winter of despair…
That passage makes marked use of anaphora, the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of consecutive clauses—for example, “it was the age . . . it was the age” and “it was the epoch . . . it was the epoch. . . .” This technique, along with the passage’s steady rhythm, suggests that good and evil, wisdom and folly, and light and darkness stand equally matched in their struggle. And that is also a reflection of life and its cycles of good and evil, wisdom and folly, light and darkness, etc.
We have just
celebrated the Resurrection. It was a time of light and joy. But following
that, as we heard in the 1st reading, was a time of evil and darkness that
began with the martyrdom of Stephen and then a bitter persecution started
against the Church.
But even in the midst of that time of evil and darkness, there were little lights that flickered and showed that the darkness cannot overcome the light. Also it is interesting to note that there is a unit of measurement for light (lux or lumen) but none for darkness.
One of those lights was Philip who went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Good News of Christ to them, and there was great rejoicing in that town.
The light that we have received at our Baptism needs to be nourished by Jesus, the Bread of Life so that just like a candle whose light is fuelled by the wax, the light of our faith can continue to burn when we are nourished by the Bread of life.
Then even in the best of times or worst of times, whether in wisdom or foolishness, whether in belief or incredulity, whether in hope or despair, our light will continue to shine through the darkness.
Prayer : God, our Father, you are our faithful God, even in days of trial for the Church and for each of us personally; you stay by our side, even if we are not aware of your presence. Give us an unlimited trust in you and make us ever more aware that your Son Jesus is the meaning of our lives and that he nourishes us with himself, today and every day, forever. Amen