15 April 2013. Monday in the Third Week of Easter
Acts 6:8ff. Stephen’s eloquent preaching angers the crowd: Is he speaking against the Law of Moses?
Jn 6:22ff. We should work for the food that carries us to 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.”
The key notions in today’s Scripture is “looking” and “seeing” – what we looke for and what we see! When the Sanhedrin senators looked at St Stephen they saw only a threat to their status. Then Jesus tells the crowd: “You are looking for me only because you have eaten your fill of the loaves.”
There are many different ways of looking: with keen interest or with narrow bias, with a large heart open to goodness whereever we find it, or with a narrow focus strictly limited to our personal concerns, with a faith that can recognise miracles or with a pessimism that sees only the worst. A saint like Stephen, commissioned to care for poor people and neglected widows, was inspired with such largeness of heart that he overlooked trivia and did not let himself be caught on the flypaper of petty worries. Instead of narrow selfish concerns, he reached out to the needs of people who needed help. Yet he was dragged before the court for acting against age-old religious customs. Just like today, important, inflential people were willing to fight to maintain differential and status at a time when the poor were going hungry. The members of the Sanhedrin looked at a saint and saw him as a sinner. They saw the face of an angel and thought it that of a devil.
When Jesus fed hungry people in the wilderness, they were concerned only about food for the belly. They did not stop to wonder about the goodness and generosity of God who cares for them; they did not begin to reflect on how well they shared with others and so think of imitating the goodness of Jesus. They did not ponder prayerfully on the words of Jesus, and their implications for daily live. They simply wanted food. But 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 can even look at people whom we consider hopeless and intransigent, and find a bond of common interest about which to speak with them. Would-be devils turn into saints! Those who seemed lost have been found!