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Tuesday of the 3rd week of Eastertide

Acts 7:51-8:1; Psalm 30(31):3-4,6,8,17,21; John 6:30-35

"I am the bread of life" said Jesus.

The food we need does not come from prophets, kings or priests - it comes from - it IS - Christ himself.

Without a commentary we might not realise that the structure of today's passage is that of a synagogue homily typical of Jesus' time. The teacher uses the Law (Exodus 16:15) followed by a Prophet (Isiah 54:13). The order is important. We need to believe first (Law), then know what is to be eaten (Prophets) and then finally, to consume - to eat at the banquet of Wisdom (Proverbs 9).

This technique lives on to this day as most of our Sunday Masses use the same structure, although we make use of either law and prophets, followed by teachings of the apostles, and finally feast on the word of the Lord himself int he Gospel reading.

Monday of the 3rd week of Eastertide

Acts 6:8-15; Psalm 118(119):23-24,26-27,29-30; John 6:22-29

We feast on John Chapter 6 this week - in which John teaches us much of the theology of the Bread of Life. Today's section is by way of an introduction, and if we did not know from the synoptic Gospels, the 7 words "his disciples saw him walking on the water" would seem absurdly brief for such an astonishing event. This kind of internal evidence points to the timing of the various gospel writings as they suggest that the author of John both knew of the other texts, and also would expect his readers to know them.

The main point of the text today concerns the disciples' belief in the bread of life. Could it mean that Jesus would always provide them with physical food (the feeding of the 5000 for example)? Were they expecting him to provide something like Manna?

Jesus is making clear that they were missing the sign that underlies the miraculous provision of food aplenty for all. The sign that becomes our sacrament of Jesus giving his entire self to each of us individually, in the eucharistic feast.

All that remains for us to do is to believe in Him, and in His giving.



Third Sunday of Easter

Sunday, 14 April 2024

Friday in the Week of Easter 2

Acts 5.34-42; Psalm 26; John 6.1-15

Gamaliel was a grandson of the famous Rabbi Hillel, who flourished in the century before the birth of Christ.  Gamaliel was one of the most respected of the Pharisees; indeed, the parents of Saul of Tarsus, who were keen that their brilliant son receive the best education the ancient world could offer, brought him to study at the feet of Gamaliel. [Acts 22.3]

‘It happens over and over’, one can imagine Gamaliel patiently explaining to a seething meeting of the Sanhedrin.  ‘Crowd-pleasers emerge who attract followers.  When these demagogues die, however, their disciples quickly scatter.’

So far as the Sanhedrin were concerned, Jesus was dead.  If he wasn’t dead, where was he?
[cf Matthew 28.11-15] Certainly he was nowhere to be seen or heard, performing miracles, teaching and transforming men and women.

Or was he?  In his name, disciples were doing the works that had seen him do. [John 14.12] And in his name, followers were not being dispersed but drawn together.  ‘If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord’ Gamaliel asserted to his friends and co-religionists; ‘but if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God.’

St Martin I, Pope & Martyr

Acts 6.1-7; Psalm 32; John 6.16-21

Martin (born between 590 and 600; died in 655) was born in Umbria of noble parents.  He was sent by Pope John IV to Dalmatia to relieve the suffering of the people there; Pope Theodore sent him as ambassador to Constantinople.  He was elected Pope in 649 as Theodore’s successor.   He was a deacon at the time and had himself consecrated without waiting for the imperial ratification of the election.  Martin then convoked a synod at the Lateran to condemn monothelitism (the belief that Jesus Christ did not have a human will).  Emperor Constans II tried unsuccessfully to have Martin arrested and brought to trial in Constantinople but in 653 Rome was invaded by Theodore Collipas who imprisoned the Pope and eventually brought him to Constantinople where he was charged with treason and condemned to death.  The Patriarch of Constantinople intervened on the Pope’s behalf and the sentence was commuted to imprisonment.  Sent to the Crimea in 655, Martin died of starvation after three months.  He is the last Pope to have been martyred.

St Stanislaus, Bishop

Acts 5.27-33; Psalm 33; John 3.31-36

Stanislaus (1030-79) was born of noble parents in Szczepanow near Kraków.  He was educated at the Cathedral school in Gniezno, then the capital of Poland.  He then undertook university studies at Paris, and upon his return to Poland he was ordained a priest and became known as a preacher and as a spiritual adviser.  In 1072 he was elected Bishop of Kraków, but he accepted the office only upon the direct instruction of Pope Alexander II.  

Legend has it that he came into conflict  with  King Bolesław II the Bold over a land dispute.  Stanislaus had purchased for diocesan use a property on the banks of the Vistula near Lublin from a certain Piotr, but Piotr died and his relatives claimed the land for the family; the King sided with the family and ordered the land returned to them.  Stanislaus in full episcopal regalia is said to have led a procession to the graveyard where Piotr’s grave was opened.  Stanislaus called Piotr to rise and he did so and proceeded to castigate his sons.  He was brought before an astonished King, who then reversed his earlier judgement.  Piotr then asked to return to his grave.

Other conflicts with Bolesław followed.  The King was accused of cruelty to his subjects and ultimately Stanislaus excommunicated him.  The King charged Stanislaus with treason and sent his men to execute him, but they feared to touch the bishop.  The King decided that he must kill Stanislaus himself and did so whilst the Bishop was celebrating a mass outside the walls of Kraków.  The martyred Stanislaus has long been considered the outstanding symbol of Polish nationhood.  He is the principal patron of Kraków.

Wednesday in Week of Easter 2

Acts 5.17-26; Psalm 33; John 3.16-21

‘We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.’  The dramatic intrusion of an angel opening prison doors in the middle of the night is a kind of analogue to the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb.  ‘Go … and tell the people all about this new Life’ the freed disciples were exhorted, just as the women who came to the tomb at dawn were spurred on to ‘go quickly and tell.’ [Matthew 28.7]

What they are to declare is the triumph of light over darkness.  Are we among those who prefer darkness to light, who fear exposition and revelation?   God comes into the world not to condemn us, but to call us out of darkness into light, out of slavery into freedom, out of death into Life worthy of the name.  

Tuesday in Week of Easter 2

Acts 4.32-37; Psalm 91; John 3.7-15

Not only were the gifts of the Spirit shared in common by the disciples of Jesus.  They also shared their material possessions, and in consequence no one was ever in want.

It is easy to understand how a gift of money or substance can support those in material need.  It is perhaps more difficult to understand how gifts of the Spirit [cf I Corinthians 12.4-11] can be employed to help others.  Yet the gifts of the Spirit aren’t conglomerated on one or two favoured people.  Graces and gifts have been given to everyone who is born of the Spirit.  If those spiritual gifts are hoarded, they will not benefit the recipient.  Spiritual gifts only reveal their power when they are shared.  And when they are, remarkably, the Church is not lacking in any gift. [I Corinthians 1.7]