Homily for Friday of the Third Week of Easter
As I mentioned earlier this week in one of my homilies for our morning Masses, over the last several days now, we have been reading through John 6, the Bread of Life Discourse. As Jesus has shared what will become his teaching on the Eucharist, we have heard about how so many of the Jewish people were having difficulty understanding what He was trying to say. They simply weren’t getting the message. The same is happening in today’s Gospel.
We have just heard how many of the Jews were arguing amongst themselves, trying to figure out what Jesus was saying. All they have heard is Jesus telling them that they have to eat His flesh and drink His blood. They thought Jesus was speaking about cannibalism. Let’s be honest, that would be the most revolting thing for any of us to hear. But that’s not what Jesus was saying. He was making the connection between His flesh as the Bread of Life and the Manna that was given to the Jewish ancestors in the desert for a reason. Jesus was trying to explain what consuming His Flesh meant.
For us as Catholics, we know this to be the Eucharistic bread. Even though it is under the appearance of bread, through the words of consecration, it becomes the very Body of Jesus. And likewise the wine that we offer becomes the very Blood of Jesus. The fulfillment of this teaching wouldn’t happen until the Last Supper and the Passion of Jesus.
Sadly though, as we have seen in our readings this week, many of the people who were listening to Jesus speak on this couldn’t accept the message. In tomorrow’s Gospel, we’ll hear how many of Jesus’ disciples would leave because of that. Then He asks the Apostles if they wanted to leave as well.
Sometimes the words that Jesus speaks to us are hard to accept. Sometimes the message that He places on our hearts is a difficult pill to swallow. Sometimes we simply have trouble agreeing with His plan for our lives. As I shared in my homily this morning, it can often lead us to a place of doubt or to a moment of questioning whether we can follow the Lord. Those doubts and those questions are not, in themselves, bad things. They’re not unreasonable. It’s what we do with them that counts. Do we allow those things to stir around our minds, causing us distress, discouragement, and anxiety? Or do we enter more deeply into a conversation with the Lord and ask Him to give us the grace to accept His message?
Those moments of doubt, those moments of questioning the Lord, those moments of wrestling with something the Lord has spoken to us can be incredible examples of grace if we simply talk to Him about them. They can be moments of great conversion in our lives. That’s what we see in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles with Saul.
Saul encounters the Lord in a very powerful way while on his way to Damascus. He had been persecuting the Christians because he couldn’t understand how God was working through them. He couldn’t understand how God was totally changing the world through the life and message of Jesus. He couldn’t accept it. And so the Lord had to interrupt Saul in a powerful way.
Jesus asks Saul a heart wrenching question: “why are you persecuting me?” It was a question that touched Saul to the core. Imagine what was going through his mind in that moment. Who is speaking? What is this voice that I hear? What is this vision? Why can’t I see? Could it be that I have been acting against God? God, what am I supposed to do with this message? What does this all mean?
The Lord gave Saul the opportunity to sit with those questions, to sit with this experience, to transform his heart and bring him to a place of conversion and repentance. Because of that, Saul would become one of the greatest evangelizers the Church has ever known.
Tonight, during this Night of Merciful Love, let’s ask the Lord for the grace of understanding His plan for our lives even in the midst of the challenges and the uncertainties that we face. Let’s ask for the grace of deeper conversion, to be drawn in, through love, to a more intimate encounter with Jesus, the Living Bread sent down from Heaven.
The same must be true for us. The Lord sometimes gives us a message that is challenging to accept, a message that is difficult for us to understand. Maybe it leads us to a place of questioning everything. What do we do in those moments? Are we giving those things to the Lord, seeking to encounter Him more deeply in the midst of them? Are we allowing Him to bring us to a more significant conversion of heart? Or are we like many of the disciples who simply left?