23rd April. Monday of the 3rd Week of Easter
Acts 6:8ff. Stephen’s eloquent preaching angers the crowd:
John 6:22ff. You should work for the food that endures for eternal life.
We only see a character in its true nature if we take the trouble to really look! The members of 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 outward in many different ways: with wide interest or with narrow bias, with a large heart open to goodness everywhere or with a narrow focus limited to personal concerns, with faith that accepts even miracles or with pessimism that sees only the worst, with wonder that peers beneath the surface to teeming possibilities or with a dull shrug of the shoulders that hardly pays attention to miracles! Somehow or other, our present world and all the more surely our future existence turn into what we see, at least so far as our own personal life is concerned.
A saint like Stephen, ordained to care for the poor and for neglected widows, was endowed by God with such a large heart that he overlooked trivia and did not allow himself to be caught on the sticky paper of petty worries. Instead of such narrow-mindedness, he reached out to the needs of the helpless. Yet he was dragged before the court for acting against the customs of the people. Important, intelligent people were willing to argue about customs when the poor were going hungry. The members of the Sanhedrin looked at a saint and turned him into a sinner. They saw the face of an angel and twisted it into that of a devil.
When Jesus fed the hungry in the wilderness, they were concerned only about stuffing food between their teeth. They did not ask about the goodness and generosity of God who cares for them; they did not inquire about their ways of sharing with others and so of imitating the goodness of Jesus. They did not stop to listen to the words of Jesus, ponder them prayerfully and ask for their implications in their daily lives. They simply wanted more food.
Eventually, John’s gospel links this miraculous multiplication of bread and fish with the Eucharist, Jesus’ very own body and blood given for the life of the world.
The Eucharist enables us to look with the eyes of Jesus and to see so much more than we ever thought to exist round about us. We look at strangers and see them as our brothers and sisters. We look at people whom we consider hopeless, intransigent and incommunicable, and find a bond of concern and interests about which to speak with them. Devils somehow turn into saints! Those who seemed lost have been found!
Every person and every event become a sign. They are like the tip of an iceberg, which conceals far more than it reveals, which alerts us to a mystery of power beyond our imagination. It asks us to look long and to study with open minds. We accept the invitation to walk into a wonderful way of life with goodness and hope beyond our imagination. We look with our feelings and intuitions, with our hopes and dreams. We see what will take an eternity to explore in all its possibilities. In fact, our eternity will consist at least partially of the joyful amazement of learning ever anew all the goodness which existed in people whose hands we shook during earthly life yet whose heart we never touched.
God has set his seal on Jesus and on all the mysteries which Jesus reveals. To look as Jesus looks, to look at something very earthly and to recognize a divine mystery, means that we are sealing our lives in a bond of love that will last forever. To look in this way, then, does not only mean that we see wonders but also that our own selves are inextricably linked with that wonder for all eternity. The Eucharist then is the food of eternal life.
First Reading: Acts 6:8-15
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.
Gospel: John 6:22-29
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 themselves 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.”