Friday, 19 April 2024. Readings: Acts 9:1-20, Ps. 117, John 6:52-59

“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.” (John 6:56-57)

To the crowds expecting another miracle of the loaves, Jesus declared that the bread He would give was His flesh. This announcement resulted in a dispute among the Jews: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” By referring to Jesus as “this man”, they forgot how they almost made Him a king. In John 6:14-15 we read: “When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!’ Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” When people benefit from you, you are a king in their eyes. Still, when the benefits are no longer forthcoming, you suddenly become “this man.” 

Jesus would go on to explain more about the Eucharist, but everything He said fell on deaf ears. One musician said: “If it is not making money, then it is not making sense.” This was the attitude of the crowds that day of many Christians today – If going to church (worshipping God) is not putting food on my table, it makes no sense. Nevertheless, today’s first reading is a practical demonstration that receiving the Holy Eucharist is worth more than all the world's money (or food). Let us now examine today’s lessons in detail:

1. The Holy Eucharist Unites Us with Christ: In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus wasn’t speaking figuratively when He said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him”, “He who eats me will live because of me”, and “He who eats this bread will live forever.” These statements mean that when we eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus lives in us, and we live in Jesus. Hence, when Jesus appeared to Saul on his way to Damascus, He did not say: “Why are you persecuting Christians?” rather, He said: “Why do you persecute me?” Jesus could feel the pains of the persecuted Christians because they are part of Him. On the other hand, since Jesus lives in you, avoid defiling your body (Jesus’ temple) with sinful thoughts and deeds.

2. The Holy Eucharist Offers Us Protection: Since the Holy Eucharist makes us part of Christ, anyone fighting you for being a Christian is fighting Christ. The Holy Eucharist is the best protection any human can ever have. As Jesus protected the Christians in Damascus from Saul’s raid, Jesus would surely protect you from the plans of your enemies, whether known or unknown. As a communicant, no one can cut short your life or kill you before your time.

3. Humans Judge According to Your Past; God Looks at Your Future: Ananias protested when God asked him to visit Saul: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.” (Acts 9:13-14). One of our human limitations is our inability to see the future. We judge people (and even ourselves) based on the past, and too often, our judgment is wrong; by so doing, we are like Saul, who couldn’t see even with his eyes open. God alone can see tomorrow. “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16). Ananias was scared, but he obeyed in faith. When God requires you to do something seemingly difficult, know that He has gone ahead of you to prepare the way. Do not be afraid.

4. Stop Praying for the Death of Your Enemies: For many of us, Saul deserves death for his role in the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. We do not know if Saul was one of those who debated with Stephen, but we are told that the false witnesses who stoned Stephen dropped their clothes at the feet of Saul. Justice and vengeance may seem like synonyms, but they are not. No matter what someone has done to you, surrender them to God. Do not wish them evil. Instead, pray for their conversion and repentance. The worst sinner today can be your saviour tomorrow.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, may I receive your body and blood worthily. Work in me and through me for good. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Remember, amid all challenges, choose to be happy. Live with a positive mindset and believe in God’s plan for you. God bless you abundantly. (Friday of the 3rd week of Eastertide. Bible Study: Acts 9:1-20, Ps. 117, John 6:52-59).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu