April 27, 2020 – Monday of the Third Week of Easter
Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042720.cfm)
The Gospel reminds us today to recognize also the giver of gifts rather than the gifts and blessings only that we receive. We are called then to develop a deeper and personal relationship with God and not to material wealth and possessions to our successes and achievements or titles which will only fade away later in our life.
This is the reminder of Jesus to the Jews when they have failed to recognize him as the Lord and Messiah. The people were only after the bread but not to the person of Jesus. They were looking for him because their stomach were satisfied. Thus, they have failed to know Jesus and to believe in him.
This is what Jesus said to the people, “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” Meaning, the people were merely looking for Jesus because they were more inclined on what they can gain materially from Jesus.
This is an attitude that only goes towards self-satisfaction, an inward looking relationship. The problem then of this attitude is that, the self does not venture towards taking risks or to let the self be challenged. It is rather more concerned of being fed, of being given attention like a baby. However, the self does not want to commit to go beyond comfort, or to go beyond what is familiar. It stays to what is only self-beneficial.
Hence, having this kind of attitude and fostering this kind of self, prevent us to become who we are called to be by the Lord. As Jesus wants the people to believe in him as the one sent by the Father, Jesus also calls us to believe in him. Believing in Jesus is not just about making the sign of the cross, and saying our memorized prayers. To believe in the Risen Christ is more than that. It is about a relationship.
This is what the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us. Stephen, who was one the chosen deacons to serve the orphans and widows of the Christian Community, was filled with grace and power. He did great wonders and signs among the people. To believe then in the Risen Christ is to be convinced of God’s power that transforms us. Moreover, Stephen’s faith and commitment to the Lord made him confident too in his ministry. This was how he exercised with grace and power because he did not serve himself, he served others.
Consequently, the Jewish leaders at that time hated him. The leaders created stories in order to condemn him. They twisted the truth because they refused to be challenged to go out from their comforts. Those leaders just wanted the community to serve them and to feed their ego.
However, through the person of Stephen, we are reminded that our faith and commitment to the Risen Christ will indeed transform us. This transformation in Jesus gives us grace and power as we allow ourselves to go beyond from our comforts and self-serving egos.
Indeed, Stephen’s friendship with the Lord became his source of strength and confidence in the midst of trials.
This is now the invitation for us today – we are called to build a closer relationship with Jesus, a friendship with Jesus, because faith is basically a relationship founded in a commitment. We do not believe in God just because we want to be treated like babies, feeding us and pampering our egos. This commitment in Jesus then, would hopefully lead us to into self-transformation that gives life to others, that works wonders in the lives of our brothers and sisters.
The very situation we are in now is an opportunity for us to work wonders in the lives of others particularly those who are in great need these days of Enhanced Community Quarantine and Lockdown. May the grace and power of Easter make us more creative and generous too in reaching out to our brothers in sisters
Having this awareness of God’s friendship in our life, this will hopefully bring us also into the assurance of God’s love and faithfulness that even in times of trials, of loss and poverty, of pain and loneliness, of illness and suffering and even death – we will be assured with our relationship with a God who is ever with us, faithfully journeying with us. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR