Remember, throughout the season of Easter the Church proclaims excerpts from the a New Testament book entitled “Acts of the Apostles.”
The purpose of this book is to provide testimony to the fact that the revelation of the Lord Jesus continues in the Church. The Church is not a mere institutional add on, a construct of culture, but it is the privileged bearer of the life and presence of the Lord Jesus into the world.
Once, the revelation of Christ was manifested in the body of his human nature, and now the revelation of Christ is manifested in his body, the Church. The mode of Christ’s self-presentation has changed, but it is the same Lord Jesus that we receive.
One of the great signs of Christ’s continued revelation in the Church is that his disciples do things that Christ did. The disciples manifest God’s power in mighty deeds that the disciples credit to the active and living presence of Jesus Christ. The fact that they do such extraordinary things and make such extraordinary claims about the Lord Jesus causes people to take notice- and not all the attention that the disciples receive is positive.
The texts this week from the “Acts of the Apostles” present the disciples of the Lord Jesus as the recipients of a great deal of opposition- those religious and political authorities that opposed the Lord Jesus now oppose the Church. The Church is like Christ, not only in signs and wonders, but in suffering. As the body of Christ’s human nature suffered, so now does his Body, the Church.
Faith in Jesus Christ is not about exemption from the hard facts of life nor is being a Christian something that is meant to afford us privileges and dispensations. Faith in Jesus Christ is a crucible, in which holiness is perfected by suffering and love is forged in sacrifice. The Church has never advanced in her mission without risk, especially the risk of offending worldly powers.
The Church, like Christ, is destined to be a sign of contradiction to the world. But oftentimes the sign of contradiction that has the deepest impact is not simply in terms of the grandiose political and cultural dramas of history, but in the more immediate circumstances of our lives.
Christ and his Church insist on the qualification, indeed the negation of many of our desires for those things the world values- wealth, pleasure, power and honors. But also that we eschew our need for control over our own lives, our need to be right, to feel safe and secure, to do things the way we want to do things.
We shouldn’t be so distracted by the pomp and pretense of the theaters of the political and the cultural and lose sight that our responsibility for personal conversion to Christ and being fully, actively engaged on behalf of the Church’s mission. Christ changes the world by first changing us.
At the heart of today’s Gospel is the mysterious revelation of the Eucharist. Christ the Lord’s power to multiply food is but a sign meant to direct our attention to the much more miraculous transformation of the food of the Eucharist into his living and divine presence.
Christ the Lord in his mercy seeks to fill the hungry with good things (and commands his disciples to do the same!). But he intends to do more than just fill our stomachs with food. Christ intends to fill our very lives with his eternal and divine life. This is what the Blessed Sacrament is and does. In our adoration and reception of the Blessed Sacrament we are recipients of something greater, indeed more miraculous, than the mysterious multiplication of the loaves and the fish.