Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
April 14, 2016
Acts 8:26-40, Ps 66, Jn 6:44-51
To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Today Jesus continues his Bread of Life discourse reinforcing a couple of the points he’s made earlier during the mystagogical catechesis this “second octave of Easter” focused on how we encounter him Risen from the dead in the holy Eucharist and how we enter into communion with the eternal life he gives us through that encounter. As the true Manna, he compares and contrasts himself to the manna God provided in the desert. “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat of it and not die.” He is the daily food of ever lasting life that God gives. But we need to respond to this gift. Jesus says, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever… and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Just like the Jews needed to eat the Passover lamb, just like the Israelites needed to consume the manna, so we need to eat the nourishment God gives us. But doing so isn’t a magical act, that if we consume the Eucharist we will automatically live forever. St. Paul tells us that those who eat the body and blood of the Lord unworthily eat and drink condemnation upon themselves (1 Cor 11:29). The Sequence of Corpus Christi reminds us that the Bread of Life becomes the bread of death for those who consume unworthily (Sumunt boni, sumunt mali, sorte tamen inaequali, vitae vel interitus. Mors est malis, vita bonis: vide paris sumptionis quam sit dispar exitus: both good and bad receive, but to totally different results, one to life and the other to the tomb. Death to the evil, life to the good. Behold how different is the end of a similar consumption). Eating the Body and drinking the Blood of the Lord is meant to lead us to a true Holy Communion of life with Jesus, to enter into a new life, a risen life, and it’s that communion of life that brings us to eternal life.
- But the main focus of this section of the passage, like yesterday’s and like what we’ll see over the next two days, is faithful docility to what Jesus is saying. Right before this passage, Jesus’ listeners objected saying, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his mom and dad? How can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’” In tomorrow’s passage, we’ll see how many of Jesus’ disciples object to his “difficult” teaching asking, “Who can endure it?” And on Saturday, Jesus will ask his apostles point-blank whether they can accept what Jesus is saying or whether they’ll abandon him over his teaching on the Eucharist. So just as Jesus yesterday talked about faith, today he talks about the docility that comes in faith. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” God will give us the grace to be drawn to the Eucharist, but we need to let God overcome our resistance. Jesus adds, “It is written in the prophets, ‘They shall all be taught by God,” and we need to allow ourselves to be taught by him. This involves both listening and learning. Jesus says, “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” God the Father draws us by letting us hear his words through his Son, but we need to do more than hear idly. We need to allow Jesus the Master to teach us. We must become his faithful disciples (students), but believing what he teaches, learning the truth, and living it.
- That type of docility is shown for us in all its beauty in today’s first reading in the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Like many ancients from polytheistic cultures that were often licentious, he had likely come to Jerusalem with fascination for the Jewish monotheistic and moral religion, drawn by the Father to seek the truth. As he was leaving Jerusalem heading back to his own country — a journey of well more than a thousand miles through the desert — on the Road to Gaza, he was pondering the Prophet Isaiah and particularly Isaiah’s fourth suffering servant song (Is 53). The Holy Spirit said to the Deacon Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot,” and Philip did something beautiful. He ran to catch up. He was zealous to cooperate. He was docile to the Spirit’s guidance — and he met another who likewise was being drawn by God. When Philip heard the Eunuch reading the Prophet Isaiah, he asked him, very adroitly, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And the Eunuch said that he couldn’t “unless someone instructs me.” But they will all be taught by God and the Eunuch would be instructed by the Holy Spirit through Deacon Philip. Philip helped the Eunuch to see that the Prophet Isaiah was speaking about Jesus and, starting from that passage, “proclaimed Jesus to him” in such a way that seeing a body of water — a body of water in the desert! — the Eunuch immediately asked to be baptized. That’s docility! That’s the type of cooperation with God’s drawing us to Jesus that should characterize every Christian life. That’s the way we should allow the Lord to draw us to Jesus in the Eucharist.
- The docility to which Jesus calls us begins by listening, then it is following by learning, as we permit ourselves to be instructed by God, but then it involves becoming God’s instruments, like the Deacon Philip allowed, so that God may instruct others through us. In your work, Sisters, God draws so many to you who are in crisis pregnancies thinking about ending the life of their growing children. The very fact that they have approached you shows that they are being drawn by the Father, that they are being taught by him, but they are being tempted away by the evil one. Never hesitate to ask them the question, “Do you understand what is happening? Do you know why you’ve been drawn to us? The God who brought you to us will never abandon you and if you trust him, he will get you through this and we will accompany you.” That accompaniment of helping others to unite themselves to the Lord begins by entering into communion with God here so that we can become his instruments to help others whom God is likewise drawing into communion. As we give thanks to the Lord for drawing us to him today, we pray that we may be docile both to the apostolate that flows from it!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
“Get up and head south on the road
that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”
So he got up and set out.
Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch,
a court official of the Candace,
that is, the queen of the Ethiopians,
in charge of her entire treasury,
who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home.
Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit said to Philip,
“Go and join up with that chariot.”
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said,
“Do you understand what you are reading?”
“How can I, unless someone instructs me?”
So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
This was the Scripture passage he was reading:
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who will tell of his posterity?
For his life is taken from the earth.
“I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this?
About himself, or about someone else?”
Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage,
he proclaimed Jesus to him.
As they traveled along the road
they came to some water,
and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water.
What is to prevent my being baptized?”
Then he ordered the chariot to stop,
and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water,
and he baptized him.
When they came out of the water,
the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away,
and the eunuch saw him no more,
but continued on his way rejoicing.
Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news
to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
PS 66:8-9, 16-17, 20
Bless our God, you peoples,
loudly sound his praise;
He has given life to our souls,
and has not let our feet slip.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
When I appealed to him in words,
praise was on the tip of my tongue.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world.”