Wednesday in Week 3 of Easter
First Reading: Acts 8:1-8
(After Saint Stephen’s burial, Saul starts persecuting the church.)
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 says, “I am the bread of life…. I will raise them up on the last day.”)
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.”
Intellectual pride can block the faith
Jerusalem, which had been a special object of Jesus’ ministry, now violently rejects his disciples, while outsiders, particularly in Samaria, listen to the word, are willing to accept miracles, and are converted to the Lord. Sophisticated Jerusalem with its religious schools and centuries-old traditions, never gives Jesus or his disciples a fair a fair hearing; while Samaria, despised, yet open and spontaneous toward good news, listens to the disciples, responds with joy to the gospel message.
The comparison of Jerusalem with Samaria alerts us to the advantages and disadvantages of strong, intellectual preparation for the gospel. No doubt, Jerusalem became the source of strength and continuity for the religion of Moses. Humanly speaking, the religion of Israel would have disappeared like the religion of the Philistines or Moabites, if Jerusalem had collapsed and disappeared. At Jerusalem the sacred tradition was preserved, and at crucial times adapted and revised into new forms. Jerusalem was also the center for the great rabbinical schools and for the central governing body of Judaism. Yet, it was Jerusalem which violently rejected Jesus and his first disciples. There was a direct simplicity about the Samaritans. As a result, new possibilities would be acted upon. They were not afraid of sophisticated criticism levelled at their naivete. Then suddenly, the flower of faith blooms among them.
Jesus had said: all that the Father gives me shall come to me. I shall lose nothing of what he has given me. I shall raise it up on the last day. We can anticipate the day of resurrection. We can have everlasting life now, if we look to the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. We allow our hopes and talents 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.