Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
Sometimes the joy of the resurrection is harder to participate in when times get tough. When we are in the midst of facing the loss of job, or struggling through the pain a shattered friendship, or even journeying with a loved one who is near death, Easter joy might seem vanquished. We may not feel it, but these times are when the Lord is trying even harder to remind us of his desire to feed us and lead us to from death to new life.
Certainly, death was on the minds of those in early church as they were burying their brother Stephen. The lament of Stephen’s friends expressed deep sorrow over losing a powerful witness of the Lord. To make matter’s worse; Stephen’s executioner was going house to house in an attempt to destroy the church. It is a scene that might make us think of current war zones, where soldiers go house to house to clear neighborhoods of those who don’t subscribe to their ideology. Saul’s people did not carry guns, yet they were tenacious in trying to eliminate anyone who believed that Jesus was the messiah.
As strong as the will as those who would destroy, the promise of Easter and new life only bolstered these believers, though persecuted their resolve was strengthened. Demons were expelled; the paralyzed and crippled were made whole. Most importantly they experienced “great joy.” Yet how could joy have been the consequence of suffering?
Joy and suffering would seem to mix like oil and water. Yet, Easter, teaches us otherwise. Death leads to resurrection. This is the paschal mystery. These two apparent opposites, death and new life, the gospel reminds us are connection by Jesus. In fact, it is through Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, death is overcome once and for all.
Today’s gospel from John also reminds us that Jesus is more than manna. Jesus is the bread of life. The bread which becomes Body and the wine that becomes blood, make present the living sacrifice of cross. This bread of life is not only food for the journey; but is nourishment for the soul. This is why we call Eucharist the source and summit of our faith. It is in becoming what we receive, that we enter more deeply into the new and eternal covenant.
As the challenges of persecution present themselves today, stop and pray a prayer that gives the suffering over to the God who was able to bring great joy despite dire circumstances. Allow the bread of life to transform your sorrow to great joy. So it was for the early Christians; so it can be for us both now and forever. Amen! Alleluia!
- Deacon Michael Montgomery