Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:26-40; John 6:44-51)

Food writer Michael Pollan criticizes the agricultural-industrial complex for polluting the American diet with corn-based products. He readily rolls out statistics to show that corn has long outdistanced wheat as America’s dietary mainstay. Pollan’s analysis raises the question whether Jesus, if he were to preach today, would say, “I am the bread of life.”

Do not doubt that he would. Whatever the universality of corn, well-made bread is still nutritious and delectable. Jesus further challenges contemporary assumptions like “the more, the better” and “what is convenient is also preferable.” He makes himself bread to be eaten in the Eucharist, but this food differs from what we put on the dinner table both in kind and quality. The Eucharist does not nourish us because it is bread for the body but because it is life for the soul. Its primarily spiritual substance lifts our minds and hearts to the divine love which they impart. Similarly, the word of God -- the Scriptures --provides rich spiritual nourishment.

Because they become the most life-giving of all food, quality bread and wine should be obtained for the Eucharist. As important, the Scriptures used in liturgies should be read from an attractive volume. For a while parishes used to make their own bread for the altar, but that practice seems to have proven impractical in the long run. Nevertheless, hosts of an appreciable size with the appearance, texture of well-made bread should be purchased whenever possible for their sign value. Likewise, a hearty, mellow wine should be obtained for consecration. Finally, reading the Scriptures from an I-Phone or missalette, although they still give life, does not indicate their preeminence in the order of knowledge and wisdom.

Wednesday, May 11, 2020

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:1b-8; John 6:35-40)

Although the Acts of the Apostles provides only a summary history of the early Church, several conclusions may be drawn from it. Today’s passage, for example, gives three keys to understanding the initial missionary activity of the Church. First, the fact that the missions resulted from the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem tells us that they were not planned in advance. Rather, they were the work of the Holy Spirit prompting Christians to work for the good in any situation. Second, the comment on how the Apostles and, presumably, other Hebrew Christians stayed behind in Jerusalem indicates that the missions were a venture of Greek-speaking Christians. These non-Jerusalemites probably downplayed the importance of the Temple as Stephen had done in his diatribe before being stoned. Finally, the missionaries did not feel restricted to preach their message to Jews but could address pagans as well since the latter not only spoke their language but also had no interest whatsoever in Temple worship.

As recent popes constantly remind us, Catholics today must take up the mission of evangelization. We can draw on the conclusions from Acts to respond to the summons. The Spirit puts us in situations where our lives and words give testimony to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In the beginning, at least, our purpose will not be to bring people to Church with us but to show them how the universal love that Jesus taught leads to a more fulfilling life. Still we do not refrain from speaking of our personal relationship with Jesus to religious skeptics. The righteousness of our lives will be the surest sign to these people of the validity of our message. But unless we are clear about who guides us, they will never know the full story.