Daily Reflection
May 9th, 2000
Kathy Kanavy
Institute for Priestly Formation
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Acts 7:51--8:1
Psalms 31:3-4, 6-8, 17, 21
John 6:30-35

The Church continues to draw us into the mystery of Easter through retelling the story of the stoning of Stephen.  In the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen confronts the people with their hypocrisy and, with utter confidence in God’s salvation, goes to his death praising God and praying for those who kill him.  This stark recounting confronts us with death, not only this martyr’s death but also our own.  But who wants to think about death?  We often resist looking at our own death, yet that is at the heart of what we celebrate in this Easter season.  So what does Jesus’ resurrection have to say to us?

In the gospel account of John, the crowd is asking Jesus to give them a sign so that they could put faith in Him.  They recount to Him that their ancestors received manna in the desert.  He replies that His Father gives the real heavenly bread, a bread that gives life to the world.  “’Sir, give us this bread always,” they besought him.  Jesus explained to them: ‘I myself am the bread of life.  No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall thirst again.’”  Jesus, in utter humility, becomes our bread, our very life.  This life in Christ is what sustains us and shatters the power of sin and death.  So what does this mean practically?

A question for reflection is where are you facing death today—not literally, but in small ways?  Our culture allures us into thinking that all things are possible and that we can “just do it!”  But this is not reality.  So, where are you experiencing human limitations of what you can’t do?   Maybe it’s the simple limitations of what you’d like to be able to get done today, but you can’t.  Maybe it’s the limitations of what you’d like to be able to provide for your children, but you can’t.  Maybe it’s the ways you’d like to take the suffering away from someone you love in sickness or psychological struggle, but you can’t.  Maybe it’s even what you’d like to be able to heal in yourself in sickness of body or of heart, but you can’t. 

It is precisely here—where “we can’t”—that Jesus comes to us and says, “Do not be afraid, I am with you.”  Jesus is our bread, our life, our sustenance, and our Savior.  He doesn’t take the limitations away; He loves us in them.  His promise is that nothing will separate us from His love, not even death!  So great is this truth that even as we face our own finality, we can acclaim, “Death, where is your sting?”  This truth is what propels Stephen to have incredible confidence as he confronts the people and as he goes to his death.  His faith that Jesus is His sustenance and life enables him to die with confidence and even joy.

For ourselves who long for such great faith, let me suggest two practical suggestions:  1) to ask God to increase our faith; 2) each day as we face our own limitations, to admit them to ourselves and to Jesus and permit Him to “feed us” with what He knows we need.  How lavish is the banquet of His love!

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