24Apr 24 April, 2020. Friday of Week 2 of Easter

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, priest and martyr (Opt. Memorial)

1st Reading: Acts 5:34-42

Gamaliel prudently advises his colleagues against condemning Jesus’ followers

a Pharisee in the Council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered them [Peter and John] 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 they 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 to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.

Responsorial: Psalm 26: 1-4, 13-14

Response: One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.

The Lord is my light and my help;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
before whom shall I shrink?

There is one thing I ask of the Lord;
for this I long,
to live in the house of the Lord,
all the days of my life,
to savour the sweetness of the Lord,
to behold his temple.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord!

Gospel: John 6:1-15

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

Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or of Tiberias). A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs 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.

BIBLE

During the Global Pandemic, O Lord, may your words be on our lips, and in our hearts. May they give us courage and hope – and draw us nearer to you...


Sharing what we have

When a wave of popular opinion wanted to crown Jesus as king, he went off to the mountain by himself. If we are right to call Christ the “King of the Universe”, we may wonder why he reacted so  negatively when the crowd offered him the kingship? What these enthusiasts wanted from Jesus was not the kind of service he had to offer. They wanted his miraculous powers at their disposal to boost their national and personal welfare. They were less interested in his religious and social ideals than in a series of miracles like the multiplication of loaves and fishes. But he intended this sharing of food to teach them a  lesson about community and sharing. In one sense, indeed, Jesus was born to be king, but not in the populist way that they wanted.

The  miracle of feeding  was done for a hungry crowd out in the countryside, who appeared to have no food between them. Faced by their obvious need, the disciples responded in different ways. Philip the pragmatist calculated that, based on the number of people and the little money they had, no solution was possible. Andrew saw a glimmer of hope in the fact  that a boy in the crowd had a small amount of food – five loaves and two fish;  but he dismissed this as insignificant in the circumstances.

Two other responses within the story are noteworthy. First, that of the boy who was willing to hand over whatever food he had brought. He had the generous instinct to contribute what little he could. Then there is the response of Jesus, who took the food that was offered and after giving thanks to God, somehow fed the large crowd. If we give generously from what we have, then through us Lord can work a miracle of sharing.

The text from Acts mentions several false messianic claimants who in the previous years had misled popular opinion. At a meeting of the Council, Gamaliel proposed a peaceful, sensible way to resolve the apostles’ claim about Jesus. If their claim was as false as the others, it must fail; but if it was inspired by God, the Council should not oppose it Even so, the apostles were not fully absolved, for the Sanhedrin had them flogged before setting them free. However, once they were released they continued preaching, being willing to suffer for Jesus’ sake.

In the end we must trust in Providence. If what we are doing is God’s work, it is worth doing and will ultimately succeed. No worthwhile project is ever wasted energy. As we consider how heroic individuals have endured persecution and how Christianity has survived over the centuries, we can trust that all this is part of God’s plan. Furthermore, other Christian churches deserve more respect than our church often shows them. The story of the loaves and fishes can be a real spur to ecumenism, urging our leaders to move more urgently towards inter-communion, following Our Lord’s express wish that we all be united in his name.