We hear the first of seven "I AM" sayings in today’s Gospel. It reminds us of the Burning Bush story. When Moses asked God his name, God replied: "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, I AM has sent me to you." The Israelites hungered for freedom from Egyptian slavery. But Moses didn’t want to go. He wanted stay home and tend his sheep.
Today’s first reading in Acts describes two starkly different events. In the first, the community is lamenting the death of Stephen, the first martyr. Men and women are being dragged from their homes and imprisoned for their faith. The church is suffering persecution. The scene then shifts to those who are proclaiming the word of God, healing the paralyzed and crippled amid cries of joy.
I know what I’d rather do. I would rather tend to my job and family than deal with stubborn, ungrateful people. I would rather preach the good news than face mourning families or persecution. Wouldn’t we all rather stay in our cul-de-sac of safety and familiarity than to face the discomfort of struggle?
But Scripture reminds us over and over again that it’s not a matter of our choice. It’s a matter of God’s choice. It’s not a matter of our comfort. It’s a matter of the needs of others. The same "I AM" who called Moses is the same "I AM" who declares himself to be the Bread of Life to a hungry people – hungry for comfort when loved ones die, hungry for companionship when they’re frightened and lonely in a hospital room, hungry for the Word of God that gives them meaning in life, hungry for the spiritual nourishment that only the Bread of Life can satisfy.
"I AM’ calls us to go, not where we want to go, but wherever people are hungry.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.