17Apr 17 April 2013. Wednesday in the Third Week of Easter

Acts 8:1ff. After Stephen’s burial, Saul starts persecuting the church.

Jn 6:35ff. “I am the bread of life…. I will raise them up on the last day.”

First Reading: Acts 8:1-8

And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

Gospel: John 6:35-40

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

A Study in Contrasts: Jerusalem and Samaria

Jerusalem, where Jesus’ ministry had reached its climax, violently rejected the message of his disciples, while the countryside, particularly Samaria, listened carefully to the word, willing to accept miracles and be converted to the Lord. Sophisticated Jerusalem with its centuries-old religious traditions, never gave Jesus or his disciples a chance to explain themselves; while despised, neglected Samaria was open to the disciples’ message and responded with joy and gratitude.

Samaria, the step-child of Mosaic religion, partly right and partly wrong in religious beliefs and practice, accepted the faith. Not all the Samaritans of course, but a good number of them converted. It may be that part of their enthusiasm for the faith and their welcome for Jesus’ disciples, stemmed from the Samaritan hostility toward Jerusalem. If Jerusalem rejected the disciples, then the Samaritans would naturally be inclined to accept them!

Is there a danger that like the people of Jerusalem we may be too sophisticated for our own good? Because we know the formal side of our religion so well, can we make it a substitute for religious fervor? We may be like the Jerusalem portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles: possessing a great heritage and yet denying its core.

Jesus also said: “All that the Father gives me shall come to me. I shall lose nothing of what he has given me.” . We can have everlasting life now, if we look to the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, allow our hopes to be touched by Jesus’ warmth. We are willing to take the full consequences of our new way of life, with its enthusiasm and achievement.