3rd Friday of Easter
Acts 91-20; John 6: 52-59
Both readings today confront us with the serious demands that following Christ can abruptly overtake us. In fact, every day in recent weeks we learn of deadly attacks unexpectedly being made on faithful Christians. These have not been confined to the Middle East, but have been taking place in our own country. Further threats are being made at present in the courts in this country that are encouraged by our President and members of the government. Europe has already in good part renounced its Christian heritage.
Saul of Tarsus was a fierce persecutor of the early Church, as Saint Luke reminds us in the Acts of the Apostles. However, the Lord makes it abundantly clear that He remains in control of events. At the same time, He further declares that He identifies himself with His followers. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” He exclaims as He rebukes the future apostle. We are all familiar with the sequel that has just been unfolded for our hearing in this first reading. We do well to devote some period of time today to reflect on the great mystery that the All Powerful God permits such frightful persecution as overtook the Church in its early days. We see the same pattern unfolding now in our own world, twenty centuries later. All the indications are that such oppression will continue and quite probably worsen.
The Gospel also tells of a rather dramatic situation in Jesus’ preaching ministry. Many of his disciples, Saint John states, decided to leave Him and went home. Our Lord, for His part, did not retract or soften his message. He asks his remaining followers if they too will depart. The generous Peter, weak as he was before the Resurrection, answers for the others, in a clear confession of belief that the Lord’s message is a word that bestows life. We are confronted with the same question these days in a world that has lost its true purpose. May the Eucharist we offer at this altar give each of us strength always to stand faithfully by our Savior who died for our sins and rose to take us to the Father.