"May we not succumb to the influence of evil but remain true to your gift of life." (Opening Prayer)
As we enter the third week after Easter Sunday, the readings for the daily Mass continue to deepen our faith in the Person of the Resurrected Jesus. It does this by challenging our human way of doing things and by asking us to go beyond normal human longings when we seek out Jesus, the Miracle Worker. These are timely readings for us because we find ourselves in a socially turbulent time. These readings invite us to focus our attention on what is truth, on what is life-giving and on what is the "work of God." They ultimately ask us to consider: "Whom do we believe?"
Shortly after Jesus’ Resurrection, Stephen, the deacon, found himself debating angry men, people so full of rage that they started making up false statements about him and the Gospel of Peace and Love that he was proclaiming. Since these opponents could not get the best of him in debate, they brought him before the law of the land and swore falsely about his Truth. Stephen stood firm and for that he was stoned to death. Stephen’s response was to forgive and to take on an angelic appearance. What a contrast to the people who could not control their anger and rage that they made up bold lies before the highest authorities of the land and condemned him to die a painful, torturous death. Sadly, many people believed them.
Our personal goals and agendas will sometimes get in the way of discovering the Truth about God, God’s Son, Jesus, and the Spirit that Jesus sends us daily as a Gift of Life. People, who had been touched by Jesus’ generosity and compassion in today’s Gospel, began to seek him out almost compulsively. They saw his disciples leave by boat but they did not see Jesus get in the boat with them. Not finding him where they expected to find him, these people got into boats and went to Capernaum where they found him with his disciples. Jesus quickly challenged them to purify their intentions in seeking him out. He invites us to seek him out, not because of the material goods he can give us, but because he is truly The Son of God! Our work is to believe in the Person of Jesus as God’s Only Son.
We live in a world in which many people are not just occasionally angry, but constantly and perpetually angry. They feel entitled, entitled to their property, entitled to the money "they have earned" and entitled to exclude people from receiving the most basic human services. We have seen people become angry and violent, claim the right to shoot people who they think violate their rights and they will do anything to justify their entitlements.
We sometimes forget that the Jesus of the Gospels continually reminds us that "All is Gift." Life is Gift. No one counseled God to give us life in the country of our birth. Our nationality is Gift. Our talents and personality are Gifts. Our ability to enhance our skills and talents is Gift. So, when Jesus is asking us to believe in Him and not in ourselves or in our entitlements, then Jesus is saying to us what we prayed for in the Opening Prayer: "remain true to your gift of Life."
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.