12 April 2013. Friday in the Second Week of Easter
Acts 5:34-42. “If this work is of human origin, it will fail; if it is God’s, no one should resist it.” The apostles were happy to suffer in the name of Jesus.
Jn 6:1-15. The miracle of the loaves and fishes. Jesus fled to the mountain alone when the people proclaimed him the prophet and wanted to make him king.
First Reading: Acts 5:34-42
But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them – in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”
They were convinced by him, and when the had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.
Gospel: John 6:1-15
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.
When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Holding to the truth
The Acts speaks today of various Messiahs that had arisen and how people had been confused and misled. How then to judge whether Jesus is the true “Anointed One”? Gamaliel, one of the Jewish leaders, opposed the use of violence to repress the Jesus movement by saying that if a work is of human origin, it will destroy itself; if it is of God, no one can stop it. Even so, the apostles are not fully exonerated for defying convention. The Sanhedrin decides to flog them before releasing them. At this the apostles rejoiced at the opportunity to suffer for the name of Jesus…and continued to preach in Jesus’ name, convinced of his truth.
We are not to follow Jesus for our own advancement or ambition, even for our security and protection. Of course, such motives are not wrong, but they are not enough. Sooner or later, in order to honour our promises in the face of serious threats to our faith in God and in the Church, we are forced to seek strength and guidance from the deepest part of ourselves. It is no longer a question of careers, work, security and good deeds. Now we are faced with the decision of deciding to be true to our conscience – at a personal price.
Our deeper motivation will be tested in one way or another. Our trust in God’s goodness will be stretched to the breaking point. Our loyalty to our family or community or Church will seem almost self-destructive, so much will be expected of us as it was of the apostles. We too like them may suffer. Yet through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and our community, we will rejoice if we have to suffer for the name of Jesus.
Finally, we have his living presence among us. Christ, the Bread of Life, who fed the crowds is still with his people, to nourish us as need requires. His Church is a God-given gift, and if a work is of God, it cannot be destroyed. To radically oppose the Church is to fight against God. No suffering to purify and spread the Church is wasted energy. We stand in living continuity with the apostles if we continue to preach the good news of Jesus the Messiah.