28Apr 28 April, 2017. Friday, Week 2 of Easter

Saint Peter Chanel, priest and martyr

1st Reading: Acts 5:34-42

Gamaliel wisely advises his colleagues not to condemn the apostles

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

Multiplication of loaves and fishes. But Jesus won’t let himself be made king

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.


Knowing our motives

The people proclaimed Jesus as the prophet foretold by Moses. If they are right in seeing him as the fulfilment of Israel’s hopes, why would he react so negatively when they want him as their king? Maybe they expected him to be their daily miracle worker. The bread he provided on a single occasion, the people wanted to turn into an everyday handout. Like the citizens of Rome at that time, they wanted free food and entertainment. The request is perfectly understandable, but the reason for Jesus’ refusal must be in the people’s motivation.

In the reading from the Acts, we see how various messiahs had arisen and many people had been confused and misled by them. A member of the Jewish council proposed a wise standard for judging the issue: If a project is of merely human origin, it will not last for long; but if it comes from God, no one should try to stop it. Even so, the apostles were not fully exonerated. The Sanhedrin had them flogged before releasing them. But on their release they continued to preach in Jesus’ name, prepared and willing to suffer for his sake.

In the end we may trust in Providence. If what we are doing is by God’s prompting, it cannot end in failure. No worthy project is wasted energy. When we think of people who have survived tests of endurance or at institutions that have continued to serve the church over the centuries, we know that such things are part of God’s plan. There are many movements which deserve much more respect than we often give them; and this thought can be a real spur to ecumenism.

Sharing our resources

Today we find Jesus and his disciples faced with a hungry crowd and little or no means of feeding them. In this situation of need, people reacted in different ways. Philip made a pragmatic calculation: on the basis of the money available to buy food, he decided nothing could be done. Andrew saw that one of the crowd had a small amount of food but quickly dismissed this small resource as of no value. There are two other reactions within this story. There is that of the small boy who willingly handed over the few pieces of food that he had. This is the response of the generous person, prepared to share whatever he has, even though it seems less than what is needed. He gave what he could. Then there is the reaction of Jesus himself. He took what the young boy was generous enough to part with and, giving thanks to God for this food, he somehow fed the enormous crowd. The gospel says that if we give generously from our resources, the Lord will work powerfully through what we give, small as it may seem to us.

Saint Peter Chanel, priest and martyr

Pierre Louis Marie Chanel (1803 – 1841), was a Catholic priest, missionary, and martyr. In 1831, at the age of 28, Chanel joined the newly founded Marist order, intent on foreign missionary work. In 1833, he accompanied Fr. Jean-Claude Colin to Rome to seek approval of the nascent Society. In 1836, they were asked to send missionaries to South Western Pacific. Chanel led a band of seven Marist missionaries to that distant territory After short stays in Tahiti and Tonga they continued their journey to Futuna where initially they were well received. Later, however, King Niuliki believed that Christianity would undermine his authority as high priest and king; so his son-in-law clubbed Chanel to death.

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