Daily Reflection
April 29th, 2004
Eileen Burke-Sullivan
Theology Department
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Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 66:8-9, 16-17, 20
John 6:44-51

Today’s liturgy invites us to a lovely banquet of meditation on God’s intentional presence and dynamic formative activity in our lives. One focus from both the readings and the memorial celebrated serves nicely to come together in one of the verses of today’s Gospel:  “It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God.  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6.45)
The Ethiopian eunuch from the court of Queen Candace is clearly a Gentile – and reporting this story in the Acts of the Apostles is part of Luke’s plan to illuminate how the Gospel is to be taken to the whole world – meaning all peoples and cultures.  But for our purposes – the juxtaposition of the story with the Gospel today illuminates another point:  God works intentionally, but mediately, throughout the world to bring forth the Divine Reign. The truth of God’s mercy is being mediated to the eunuch in the Scriptures first.  The written words of the deeds and sayings of God in the Scriptures are the foundation of our wisdom – but the Scriptures alone are not adequate to bearing the weight of God’s plan, so God “lifts” a living  witness to the eunuch in the person of Philip the Apostle.  Remember, he’s the one to whom Jesus said in some seeming exasperation: “Phillip have I been with you so long and you still do not understand?” He obviously “gets” Jesus’ message now – being filled with God’s Spirit in the community of believers at Pentecost - and is willing and able to go wherever he is needed to help others in their confusion to “get” what God has in store for us. Thus we have seen the “shape” of the Liturgy of the Word which brings us to profession of Faith in Jesus and Baptism.

Then the Gospel turns our attention to the mediation of God’s presence to us in the person of Jesus and his gift of his being in the form of food and drink – the things of this world that nourish us and keep us alive and strong. This text from John’s so-called “bread cycle” of the 6th Chapter are often understood to be the way John handles the Eucharistic mystery – which the synoptic Gospel writers place in the context of the Last Supper.  So the readings focus our attention on the whole of the Eucharistic mystery as a mediation of God’s on-going activity in the world through the two arms of Jesus and the Spirit.

But there is a third element to today’s banquet to which we can attend to get the richer and fuller message of God’s mediated presence in our lives, and that is the invitation to ponder the life and ministry of Catherine of Siena.  She is recognized by the Roman Church today as a Doctor of the Church. This bears a certain irony because, like most of the lay and non-noble women of her day, Catherine apparently could neither read nor write in any usual sense of those terms.  She did dictate an important mystical theology treatise to one of her companions, a man who was her spiritual director and a Dominican priest, but in some ways she is more famous for the fact that she became a prophetic witness that God used to challenge and correct popes, bishops and kings – the powerful religious and political leaders – at a time when women’s voices were remarkably undervalued in temporal and religious society.

The presence of God intentionally and dynamically shapes the one who is available, the one who hears the word and is baptized, and the one who consumes the Bread of Life.  The presence of God shapes such persons to be Divine Presence toward healing a wounded and corrupt Church and re-creating light and hope in a chaotic and darkened world.  This is the message of Easter!  This is the Good news of Salvation! 

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