which the Son of Man will give you. ...
This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent. - John 6
Our Easter Season readings are taking us along two related paths. We are remembering the story of Stephen, who became the first martyr - the first to lose his life in his profession of his faith. We are remembering the sixth chapter of the Fourth Gospel - after the multiplication of the loaves, feeding a vast crowd, after which Jesus teaches us about eternal life and how he is the bread of that life.
This is good post-Easter nourishment for us. I can confess that about this time each year, whatever Easter joy or consolation I felt has so often faded or worn off. We get busy. Life itself, and interacting with lots of people, presents challenges. At times, our goals get co-mingled with some very unattractive desires habitually rising up from inside somewhere. Anger - from hurts, frustrations, slights by others, a dash of self-pity - and competition - adding a touch of jealousy and a taste of envy - comes into the mix. Our patience seems to go pretty quickly and we can easily judge everyone around us to be quite stupid, incompetent, or just plain sinful. Then, add a few emotional losses - the death of a loved one, a deep disappointment or a dream that went unfulfilled - and sadness contributes to a building fatigue and a pretty irritable spirit. Finally, we make some bad choices, fight with a friend or loved one, engage in some self-indulgence that was supposed to bring some relief, and we are really very far from where we want to be - actually, very far from grace and our true selves.
I really love the reminder which Jesus offers us today: "Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." It is so simple and yet so clarifying. The answer to our self-exploring question, "What's happened to me?" can often be addressed by Jesus' caution. Have I been working for, looking for, trying to get by on, food that perishes? Is the stuff I've been trying to survive with actually not what I need to live? Might it be starving me? Even toxic? On a good day we usually watch out for our physical health. We wash our hands and take out the garbage. We try not to eat bad food. But, Jesus is asking a deeper question. How are we taking care of our spirits? Are we feeding our spirits quite poorly? Are we letting our spirits become malnourished or even poisoned by the stuff we take in each day?
The Easter message comes back: Work for food that endures for eternal life. Jesus is that food. In this chapter he will say it quite clearly: feed on me and have life because of me. (John 6:57) We all know, deep down inside that this is the remedy we are looking for. Allowing Jesus back into our consciousness and into our spirits, throughout each day, will be the nourishment we need for that deeper kind of life we've been hungering for. It just feels more peaceful, just to think about it and breathe it in. We can imagine restoring some needed habits, like looking at a cross or crucifix each morning or making the sign of the cross early in our day. We can place our life in his hands as we prepare for the day. Everything starts to re-align. Tensions and anxieties begin to fade. It's hard to feed on Jesus and yell at someone I live with. When I'm being fed by reminding myself of his love and mercy, it's hard to be as impatient and frustrated with everyone. Gradually, Easter returns. We remember that the tomb is empty, Jesus is alive, and we are too. We become alive again with the gift of eternal life he won for us. And, we start giving thanks again, counting our blessings rather than recounting our problems.
Our prayer today can be the prayer we say at Mass before we receive our renewed communion with him: "Only say the word and my soul shall be healed."
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook