Scripture: Lectionary 275. April 17. Acts 8:1-8. Psalm 66:1-3,4-5,6-7. John 6:35-40:
One of the negative and oppressive actions that cause a movement to grow is persecution. We have seen how the apostles rejoiced when they were flogged and put in prison for preaching the Good News about Jesus and his resurrection. The persecution cannot be overwhelming, otherwise, the movement, especially if it is young will be squelched. We see that the nascent church was able to withstand this opposition and continued to grow exponentially. The persecution is the first we hear of in the Acts of the Apostles in the sense of an all out type of opposition. This happens in Judea and Samaria, the two areas where the Christians were growing after the Pentecost descent of the Holy Spirit.
Luke favors Samaria. We have Philip, one of the seven deacons, now ministering to the people of Samaria. Like Jesus he is able to heal many and cast out evil spirits. Though Stephen has been martyred, the movement continues on probably through the other deacons and, of course, through the apostles. Apostolic preaching is intense in the Acts of the Apostles and this is another way in which a movement grows if it is Christian. Fear and violence does not stop the Good News from being spread throughout the Land of Israel.
We now are moving daily through a continuous reading about the Bread of Life . Jesus identifies his inmost self with the Bread of Life by using another of the emphatic EGO EIMI statements, which means, “I really am the Bread of Life.” It is connected to the very existence of Jesus as human and divine. Only John has Jesus using this expression to indicate the absolute truth and reality of the statements connected with the cherished expression.
This gift of Jesus is another reason why persecution could not stop the new communities of faith from forming. Jesus is there always for the believers. He is their sustenance as the Bread of Life and the reason why their faith was so strong. The Eucharist is a sacrament of unity and peace; the budding communities participated in Communion in order to persevere in their faith. Jesus is with us now and always and especially at the hour of our departure from this life whether it be through sickness, age, or even persecution. No one who believes in the Lord is rejected. No one is conquered or vanquished by being persecuted for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Our selection from John today (John 6:35-40) is a key toward understanding the sacrament of the Eucharist. All of chapter six is better understood when we recall this excerpt. It leads us through the discourse on the Bread of Life and the realism of the giving of Jesus’ body and blood to those who believe. By our careful and attentive reading this passage and our praying it and pondering it over we come to realize that Jesus is with us now and always. He informs us that we too will be one with him in his Resurrection to new life: “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life. Him/her Iwill raise up on the last day.” So be it! Amen. Alleluia.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.