Friday of the Second Week of Easter (April 28th, 2017)

Our first scripture, an excerpt from the New Testament Book of Acts, describes the Church in crisis- facing a persecution that threatens its young life.

An unexpected advocate emerges who intervenes on behalf of the persecuted Christians, insisting that the Church’s opponents stand down and let the Christians alone. Time will tell if this new movement survives, and as the Church is beleaguered and weak, it poses no real threat. And besides, if the Church is, as the adherents of this new Faith testify, a work of God, no merely human power will be able to stop it.

This advice seems to be accepted and the persecutors relent, at least for a time.

The Church has known persecution in every age of its life. Hatred from the outside oppresses the Church while wickedness from the inside subverts her mission- and yet the Church mysteriously endures. Why? Not because of merely human ingenuity or accident. But, instead, the Church endures because the Church is not merely an institution, a construct of our own making, but instead is mystically Christ’s Body, the continuation of his Incarnation in space and in time. The Church is Christ’s life and presence enduring in history. Like his earthly body, the Church is afflicted and suffers, but this affliction and suffering cannot overpower the divine power of God that the Church, as the mystical body of Christ, bears into the world. And because the divine power of Christ resides in the Church, affliction and suffering can become redemptive.

The early Christians knew and believed this. Do we?

Today’s Gospel is a brief selection from the Gospel of John, testimony to the divine power of Christ to work miracles. What does Christ do? He multiplies mere fragments of bread and fish so as, to satisfy the hunger of a vast crowd.

Christ does what only God can do, and in doing what God can do, he gestures towards the mystery of his identity- that he is God.

But today’s mysterious revelation in the Gospel does not just signal to us Christ’s divine identity, but also presents a type or foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist.

How so? The Eucharist is a marvelous intervention of God in our lives, bearing into our lives a power that effects a surprising change- mere fragments of food and drink become Christ’s Body and Blood, imbued with his divine power to reconcile us to God and draw us into an extraordinary relationship with him.

The Eucharist is no more just a symbol or metaphor than it is merely bread and wine. The Eucharist we receive is Christ’s life and presence, given to us as food and drink, given to us, to satisfy the hunger of our souls for communion with God, but also given to us, so that partaking of his life, our life might become like his.

May we who partake of this holy mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood, appreciate what Christ is giving to us, and permit ourselves to become like the One that we receive.

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Friday of the Second Week of Easter (April 17th, 2015)

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.

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