Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
Like many written works, how a character is introduced foreshadows the role that he or she will play in the rest of the story. Today’s First Reading provides us with a little bit of the character development of Saul, later called Paul. Through the story describing the martyrdom of Saint Stephen (whose feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is celebrated on December 26), we are introduced to Saul simply as someone who was present and consenting to Stephen’s execution. As the next two chapters unfold Saul is presented as one of the most feared man among the Christian communities, as he is notorious for rounding up Christians and having them imprisoned (Acts 8:3).
While all four Gospels present the passage before today’s Gospel of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes (Mark 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15), only John presents the famed “Bread of Life” discourse (John 6:26-59). If John omits the Body and Blood references in the Last Supper (he presents the Washing of Disciples Feet instead in John 13:1-20), he connects Jesus as the Bread of Life in chapter six. Jewish tradition held that the manna in the desert (Exodus 16, Numbers 11) symbolized the Torah, or God’s instruction, and was meant to feed the human spirit as it wanders through the desert of life. Yet, Jesus is the new Torah that can feed the deepest hunger, the spiritual quest to find God. In his Confessions, Augustine notes this quest is only solved when “our hearts…rest in Thee [God].” At each Eucharistic celebration, we are presented with our spiritual food to help us continue the wilderness of life. As Saint Anselm said, “I adore and venerate you as much as ever I can, though my love is so cold, my devotion so poor. Thank you for the good gift of this your holy Body and Blood, which I desire to receive.” At the next Eucharist celebration we attend may this be our prayer.