Monday of the Third Week of Easter, April 19
Are We Open to the Many Signs Which God Gives to Each of Us in Our Daily Lives, for God Speaks to Us in Many Different and Varied Ways, and Some Ways Are More Subtle than Others?
Did you ever hear the expression, “An army marches on its stomach?” It seems that this phrase could apply to all those who were following Jesus after miraculously being fed with, what started out to be, just five loaves and two fish. They were definitely a small army of some five thousand men, not including women and children.
And when they find Jesus again on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Tiberius) in the town of Capernaum, our Lord responded to them with what appears to be a certain amount of displeasure when He says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”
But then He goes on to say, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
In today’s Gospel Reading, Saint John is beginning to lead us on a journey through Jesus’ discourses – His teachings that He is the Bread of Life, the Food which nourishes the soul and gives eternal life to the faithful believer.
Each of us needs to be fed; each of us yearns for that which nourishes and satisfies. But oftentimes, what many people look for does not give lasting sustenance or pleasure. We can always fill the stomach; we can even fill the needs of the mind.
But when we are not fed spiritually, what remains unfilled, what remains empty is the heart and soul! And we see this emptiness in those who were slandering Stephen in our First Reading today.
Stephen, one of the first seven ministers of charity and justice, who were later called deacons, was proclaiming the Word of God, and Scripture tells us that “Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people.”
Due to what appeared to be jealousy and a lack of openness to faith on the part of some of the Jewish people, they brought him before the Sanhedrin with falsified charges, not unlike what had happened to Christ.
And what does Scripture tell us? “All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” The Holy Spirit was truly within Stephen, strengthening him for the final trial which he was to undergo!
Even our psalmist today seems to be echoing what existed in the heart of Stephen, but missing in the hearts of all his accusers, “Yes, your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors…Make me understand the way of your precepts; I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.”
Stephen, empowered by the Holy Spirit after the Apostles had laid their hands upon him and the other six deacons, was performing great signs and wonders in the proclamation of the Truth about Jesus of Nazareth.
Unfortunately, the Jewish people who were witnesses to all that Stephen was saying and doing were unable to open their eyes to see the Hand of God – the workings of the Holy Spirit – in all that Stephen was proclaiming. They were blinded to all that God was saying through His chosen servant. It was as though they were wearing blinders and could only focus on the letter of the Mosaic Law, and not on the spirit of its fulfillment.
And in our Gospel today, Jesus could read into the hearts of those who were following Him that they were not yet open to what He was teaching them through the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish.
The question then begs to be asked – are you and I open to the many signs which God gives to each of us in our daily lives? Are we open to seeing Jesus in those around us, not just our friends and relatives, but also the stranger on the street and those who are suffering in our midst – even those who may offend us? For God speaks to us in many different and varied ways, and some ways are more subtle than others.
When we are witness to new life being born into this world, are we not overcome with the awesomeness and the wonder of such an occasion? For it is in the very wonder of new life itself wherein we recognize that we fulfilled our role in becoming co-creators with God Himself!
And in such a marvelous instance of creation, it is oftentimes difficult to comprehend how the courts and legislators are not able to see the creative Hand of God behind such a wondrous event! It is as though they, themselves, are wearing blinders – the same as those who were witness to and heard the words of Stephen – the same as those who were witness to the multiplication of the loaves and fish, but not see the Eternal Truth behind it.
When we look to the beauty of this world in which we live, and there IS great beauty, if only we would open our eyes to the Hand of God. After the grayness of the long winter months, we see the first signs of spring in the color of new flowers, grass beginning to green, cherry and peach blossoms blooming, the chirping of birds as they go about building their nests getting ready for new life themselves.
In the fall season, we see the changing of the leaves as they take on the beauty of the autumn colors. Even during the winter season, a fresh blanket of snow covering the landscape, along with reflected sunlight off of ice covered branches, have been occasions for many artists’ beautiful paintings!
Oftentimes, we get so caught up in our everyday activities and routines that we fail to recognize God’s creative Hand in the beauty of our own world! There are signs of God’s Presence all around us, if only we would take the time to open our hearts and observe and appreciate.
The signs which we receive in the Eucharistic Liturgy, the signs we receive in all the Sacraments – call us to a life of faith. Jesus is reaching into our lives not only through His Church, but also through nature and through people who love us. Jesus even reaches into our lives through people who challenge us.
He desires that we ask ourselves, “What matters to me most in my life?” If we can take off our blinders and honestly answer that question with a single word – Jesus! – then we can begin to understand that all the signs that surround us today is God’s way of calling us into a deeper relationship with Himself – for these signs are a means through which we renew our faith and commitment to Jesus Christ in our daily lives.
And that is the very heart of what we find in our Readings today! In other words, are we willing to say to Jesus, “You are number One”, or are we more interested in filling our stomachs with the bread, the materialism of this world? If that is the case, then we have sorely missed the true meaning of the signs which our Lord is giving us.
If we make a point of putting God first in all that we think, in all that we say and do – if we live our faith as God asks us, just as Stephen did when proclaiming the Truth about our Lord, just as the psalmist did in his faith in God’s Love and His teachings – then we are fulfilling what our Lord is asking of us in today’s Gospel –
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
And there is no greater sign on our part than our “leap of faith” which we place in His Most Holy Name! †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27a)
- “Your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors…Make me understand the way of your precepts; I will ponder your wondrous deeds.” (Psalm 119:24, 27)
- “Stop and consider the wondrous works of God.” (Job 37:14b)
- “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will delight and rejoice in you; I will sing hymns to your name, Most High.” (Psalm 9:2-3)
- “Let them thank the LORD for his mercy, such wondrous deeds for the children of Adam.” (Psalm 107:15)
- “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
- “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.’” (John 6:29)
Prayer for the Day
“Father, I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
“Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures;
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
“Into Your hands, I commend my soul:Charles de Foucauld
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
for I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence, for You are my Father.”