A Gospel Reflection
by Deacon Mike Manno
Reflection on the Mass readings for:
Tuesday, April 28
, 3rd week in Easter
From Deacon Mike:
from Acts recounts the last few moments of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Stephen, as you might recall, was one of the first deacons chosen by the Apostles to assist them in meeting the needs of the fledgling Christian community. Earlier in Acts he is described as “filled with grace and power,” and was “working great wonders and signs among the people.”
This brought him into conflict with the Greek speaking Jews who “could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.” Thus he was called before the Sanhedrin to answer to the charge of blasphemy. There he gave a long reply to the chief priest in which he outlined the history of Jewish prophecy that was rejected by the Jewish elders. He concluded with the portion contained in today’s readings, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit. … You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”
He was then drug out of the city and stoned to death by his “infuriated” listeners. His death was much like Christ’s in that he called out to heaven and forgave those casting stones against him.
Today’s Gospel comes from that part of John’s Bread of Life Discourse in which Jesus, in response to the crowd demanding a sign, reminded his listeners that while the Israelites were fed manna in the desert to maintain their physical wellbeing, he was feeding them his body for their spiritual benefit. “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Ultimately, many in the crowd could not accept what he was saying about eating his flesh and walked away.
Now to pull these two reading together, remember last Sunday’s Gospel about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who met Jesus whom they did not recognize. Not knowing that he had risen they were downcast because they had hoped the crucified one was the promised Messiah.
During the journey the “stranger” revealed to them the meaning behind the prophecies in Scripture about Jesus and how all that had happened was necessary to show the glory of God. I imagine what Jesus said on the way to Emmaus was pretty much what Steven told the Sanhedrin in his last hours. Then, while they ate, their companion blessed and broke the bread and they finally recognized him as Jesus.
Isn’t that what we do at Mass? We hear the Scriptures proclaimed, then we meet him in the Eucharist. He is not hidden, he is real and can be found in Scripture and the Blessed Sacrament.
The road to Emmaus is not a conversion story. It is about followers of Christ who have lost their way and their beliefs have been shaken. Does this sound familiar in your life? It might; it has happened to almost everyone at one time or another to at least some degree, especially in times of need such as today. But the readings from Sunday and today do tell us where we can find hope when we are in doubt: Scripture and the Eucharist.
Make the time, especially if you are home isolating, to renew your faith by taking a deeper look at Scripture. Read your Bible and see Jesus in it; go visit him in the adoration chapel. It will strengthen your faith, give you comfort, and fill you with his peace, the same peace he gave to Steven at the time of his death.