Jesus’ Parting Words
Third Sunday of Easter (Year B)
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:45–48 (Year B)
This was the final appearance to the disciples as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. In this appearance, Jesus showed the Apostles His hands and His feet, explained to them that He had to suffer, die and rise, as was foretold by the prophets. He exhorted them to be “witnesses of these things,” He explained that very soon the Holy Spirit would come from the Father, and then walked with them to Bethany where He ascended to Heaven. These, the final earthly words of Jesus, set forth the mission of these Apostles as well as the mission of all of us.
“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus said. What things? The Apostles were to be witnesses to the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ suffering, death and Resurrection. The proclamation of these truths are the central mission of Jesus’ Apostles and all of us.
How often do you think about the Paschal Mystery? Perhaps you have heard those words but do not fully understand what they are. What is the “Paschal Mystery?” The Paschal Mystery was what Jesus told the Apostles to be witnesses to. They were to be witnesses to others that Jesus came from the Father, suffered death for our sins, rose from the dead to conquer sin and then ascended into Heaven to invite us to follow. This is the most central message of our faith.
Sometimes our Christian faith can be treated more like a book of “do good lessons” than as the saving truths of our redemption. Though it’s essential to understand the moral laws and the call to charitable works, we must always remember that the heart of the Gospel is about salvation. It’s about Jesus dying for our sins and rising victorious so that we can enter the glories of Heaven. We do not enter Heaven simply because we are good people; rather, we are able to enter Heaven only because of the saving act of the Paschal Mystery. And though this saving act calls us to a life of charitable service to others, that charitable work is more of an effect of salvation than it is the central purpose of our faith.
The Gospel passage quoted above also says that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Therefore, if we, like the Apostles, are to understand the Gospel and the central purpose of Jesus’ life and our own lives, then we must allow Him to open our minds also. We must allow Jesus to reveal to us the Paschal Mystery, because it is not something we can comprehend or figure out on our own.
Reflect, today, upon how clearly you understand the purpose of the life of Christ. Do you understand the mysteries of His human life, suffering, death and Resurrection? Do you understand how these truths of our faith must change you at your very core? And do you understand your duty to be a witness to these mysteries of faith to others? Sit with these questions and allow them to sink in deeply so that you may join the Apostles in both the gift of redemption and the call to evangelize the world.
My saving Lord, Your life, death and Resurrection is the greatest gift ever given. Through this Paschal Mystery, we are set free from sin and become children of Your Father in Heaven. Open my mind to more fully understand this great gift and give me the grace I need to become Your witness to the world in need. Jesus, I trust in You.
Food for Eternity
Monday of the Third Week of Easter
“Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. John 6:25–27
What do you work for in life? That which ultimately perishes? Or that which is eternal? This is an important question to sincerely answer. Too often we spend most of our lives putting most of our time and energy into those things that have little value for eternity.
The day before the above quoted conversation, Jesus had multiplied the loaves and fishes and fed five thousand households. The people were so impressed that the next day, when they were hungry again, they came looking for Jesus and found Him on the other side of the lake. Jesus, of course, immediately understands the situation. He realizes that the crowd of people who found Him were more interested in another meal than they were in the spiritual food that is eternal. So Jesus gently uses the opportunity to give them this short lesson about what is most important. The “food that endures for eternal life” is ultimately faith in Jesus.
Imagine if you were one of those people who witnessed, first hand, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. What sort of an impact would that have had on you? Would it have drawn you into a deep faith in Jesus, the Son of God? Or would you have been more impressed with the free and miraculous food? What’s interesting is that Jesus feeds the five thousand when they are not expecting it and not desiring it. But when they do come expecting it and desiring it the next day, He refuses. Jesus refuses another miracle because He wants the people to look deeper to the eternal reality.
In our own lives, living primarily for the deeper and eternal reality is often hard to do. It’s easy to keep our eyes on the superficial and less important aspects of life. How do I make more money? Or buy a new car? Or have a fancier meal? How can I better entertain myself? What new piece of clothing should I buy? And the list goes on. Of course none of these things are evil, but they are all passing and will not have an effect upon our eternal soul. And, in fact, if we give too much attention to the superficial and least important aspects of life, they will have the effect of distracting us from that which is most important.
Reflect, today, upon this challenge from Jesus. Do not work for that which perishes; work for that which is eternal. Look at your priorities in life. Where is your focus? What concerns you the most every day? Hopefully your greatest concern is to grow deeper in faith in the Son of God. Hopefully it is to live the charity that is eternal. If you honestly look at your life and the goals you have and see yourself overly concerned with the things of this world, then allow these words of our Lord to speak to you directly so that you are storing up riches for eternal life.
My most glorious Lord, You are the Food that is eternal. You are the Food for everlasting life. Give me the wisdom I need, dear Lord, to turn my eyes from the passing and least important things of this world and to turn, instead, to that which is eternal. May I keep my eyes upon You and be nourished by my faith in You. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Bread of Life
Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
So they said to Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” John 6:34–35
Imagine if you were to never grow hungry or never thirst again. On a natural level, this would be an interesting reality. Of course, if you never had physical hunger or thirst, then you may never enjoy the delight of good food and drink. So why would anyone want to lose out on such delights?
Of course, Jesus was not speaking of natural food and drink, He was speaking of supernatural hunger and thirst. And He was not saying that the spiritual food and drink He came to give us would eliminate our ability to delight in spiritual fulfillment. On the contrary, Jesus was saying that the spiritual food and drink He was to provide would result in neverending fulfillment and satisfaction.
Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel will continue to be read throughout this week, the Third Week of Easter. This chapter presents us with what is traditionally called the “Bread of Life Discourse.” It’s John’s deep, mystical and profound teaching on the Most Holy Eucharist.
First of all, it’s useful to look at this Gospel within its context. Recall that on the previous day, Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and a crowd of people who had been fed by Him were now seeking more food. Jesus uses their desire for more food to begin to teach them about the Most Holy Eucharist, and He wants to do the same for you.
Put yourself into this scene. What is it that you hunger and thirst for the most? Perhaps you have plenty of physical food, but perhaps you don’t. If you do, what else do you crave? What do you desire? When you have identified your deepest desires right now, use these desires to allow our Lord to teach you about the Bread of Life. It might be useful to say to our Lord, “Here are my current desires in life…” And then, allow yourself to hear Jesus say to you, “I want to give you so much more. I am what you truly long for. If you come to Me, you will have all your desires fulfilled and more.” This is essentially the conversation Jesus had with this crowd throughout John Chapter 6.
Do you believe that the Most Holy Eucharist is capable of fulfilling you on the deepest level? Too often we approach that Sacrament in a lazy and distracted way. As a result, we often fail to truly receive our Lord on a level that provides this deepest delight and satisfaction.
Reflect, today and throughout this week, upon your approach to Holy Communion. The Eucharist is Christ Himself. It’s a gift that has the potential to not only sustain us in every way but also to draw us into the greatest Heavenly delights. Believe Jesus’ words in this holy chapter of John’s Gospel. For if you deepen your belief in all that Jesus has said, you will begin to realize that all you crave in life will begin to be fulfilled by this precious gift in ways beyond your imagination.
My Eucharistic Lord, You are the Bread of Life. You are all that I desire in Life. Give me the grace of understanding, dear Lord, so that I can come to believe all that You have revealed about the Most Holy Eucharist. I do believe, my God. Help my unbelief. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” John 6:40
Do you believe in Jesus? Unquestionably the answer is “Yes.” However, to believe in our Lord is something that must deepen with every passing day. Therefore, if you do have faith in Jesus, you can also admit that you do not have faith enough. In this Gospel passage in which the “Bread of Life Discourse” is continued, Jesus calls us to do two things. First, we must see Him. Second, we must believe. Let’s start with the first.
When Jesus first spoke these words to the crowd, they did see His physical presence. But many of them did not see beyond the surface. They saw His miracles, heard His teaching, but very few saw the deeper reality of Jesus as the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the World.
If you are to believe in our Lord and all that He is, then you must first see Him. One of the best ways to foster this “holy sight” of our Lord is to gaze at Him in the Most Holy Eucharist. When you attend Mass or spend time in adoration and look upon the Most Holy Eucharist, what do you see? Do you see the Eternal Son? Do you see His holy divinity? Do you see your God and the Lord of all?
As we stand or kneel before our Lord, present in the Most Holy Eucharist, it’s easy to become distracted. It’s easy to allow our minds to wander to the many other aspects of our daily lives and to fail to see the eternal Son of God as He is present to us.
Reflect, today, upon the way you look at our Lord. If you want to deepen your faith, your belief, then start with your sight. Start by considering how you look at Jesus, present in the Most Holy Eucharist. If you are blessed to be with Him this day at the Holy Mass or in adoration, examine the way to see Him. Gaze at Him. Make an intentional act of faith in His divine presence. Acknowledge His Godhead, His glory, His holiness and His sacred presence. If you can look beyond the surface and lift the veil that covers His glory, then this holy gift of sight will give way, also, to the gift of profound faith.
My ever-present Lord, I thank You profoundly for the way You come to me in the Most Holy Eucharist. I thank You for Your divine presence and glory. Help me to see beyond the veil of the appearance of bread and wine so that I can see more clearly Your divinity. As I see Your divine presence, dear Lord, help me to profess my belief in You with greater certitude and faith. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Flesh of Our Lord
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
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.” John 6:51
Jesus was starting to stir up the emotions of some within the crowd. They began to ridicule Him because He had said that He was the “bread that had come down from heaven.” Thus, many of those who had sought Jesus out in hopes of another miraculous free meal began to murmur among themselves and ridicule Him. As a result, Jesus began to speak even more clearly and shockingly. He then went even further and said that He is not only the “living bread that came down from heaven” but that those who want to “live forever” must also eat His “Flesh.”
How would you have reacted to such a statement if you were among those within the crowd? Consider the fact that you would have recently seen, with your own eyes, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Therefore, you would have realized that Jesus was someone special, to say the least. But how would you have reacted to this statement of Jesus, “and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world,” if you had heard it spoken at that time? Most likely, your reaction would have been the same reaction that you have right now to the teaching of the Most Holy Eucharist.
Many who heard Jesus speak this way may have thought it was a bit of an unusual thing to say. Some would have reacted strongly, while others would have reacted with indifference. But some would have had an entirely different reaction. Some would have heard Jesus speak these new and shocking words, would have realized that they did not fully understand what He meant, but would have believed deeply on account of the gift of faith. Somehow they would have known, in the depths of their consciences, that they did indeed need to eat the Flesh of Him Who came down from Heaven since He was indeed the Bread of Life.
Believing in the Eucharist, in the fact that these tangible and visible gifts of the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood are, in fact, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Eternal Son of God, can only happen through the interior and transforming gift of faith. How else can you believe such a teaching? How else could you believe that these words in today’s Gospel have come true? And that the reception of the Most Holy Eucharist is the pathway to eternal life? The gift of faith in the Most Holy Eucharist is the one and only way to understand, accept and deeply believe what our Lord has spoken in this Holy Gospel.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus speaking these most holy words for the first time: “…the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.” As you prayerfully reflect upon these words, ponder how deeply you believe them. How deep is your faith in the Most Holy Eucharist? The Eucharist is the fulfillment of this passage, and our divine Lord invites you to not only believe in His holy words but to allow this truth to transform you in ways beyond what you could ever imagine.
My Eucharistic Lord, You are truly the Bread of Life, and all those who eat Your Flesh and drink Your Blood will inherit eternal life. I do believe this, dear Lord. I believe that the Most Holy Eucharist is You, Your Soul and Divinity, given to me so that I can share in Your holy life. Give me the grace I need to deepen my faith in the Most Holy Eucharist so that I will be drawn more fully into the joys of Your Eternal Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.
A “Holy Fear”
Friday of the Third Week of Easter
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. John 6:53–55
On a philosophical level, it’s useful to consider various things that appear to be “competing forces.” Good appears to be the opposite of evil. Light the opposite of dark. Heat the opposite of cold. And life the opposite of death. But are they truly opposites in the sense of being competing forces? When considered carefully, it is clear that good and evil, light and dark, heat and cold, and life and death are not actually “competing forces;” rather, evil is simply the absence of good, darkness the absence of light, cold the absence of heat, and death the loss of life. And though this philosophical distinction may not seem that interesting to some, and confusing to others, it is a helpful truth to ponder in light of today’s Gospel.
Today’s Gospel tells us that failure to “eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood” results in death. Death is the loss of life, and the Eucharist is the source of life. Jesus says that if you fail to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, “you do not have life within you.”
This bold teaching of Jesus should cause us to stop and examine our approach to the Most Holy Eucharist. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that going to Mass and receiving Communion is something we do as a “favor” to our Lord. But in truth, it’s God’s most profound favor to us, because the Eucharist is the gateway to eternal life. And without it, we have no life within us. Our spirits die because we lose the presence of God.
Looking at the negative effect of not receiving the Most Holy Eucharist can be very useful. Sometimes we need to consider the consequences of our actions as a way of motivating us to greater fidelity. For that reason, considering the fact that failure to eat the Flesh of the Son of God results in death should be very motivating. It should fill us with a holy fear of the loss of the life-giving presence of God within us. This “holy fear” is a true gift from God and is, in fact, one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Reflect, today, upon your interior attitude toward the Most Holy Eucharist. Do you see your participation in the Holy Mass more as a favor you offer to our Lord? Or do you see it as it is: the life-giving source of eternal life? Reflect upon how important this precious gift truly is and recommit yourself to a faithful and devout participation in this most holy Gift.
My Eucharistic Lord, Your Flesh and Blood are truly the source of eternal life for all who receive You in faith. I thank You, dear Lord, for this most precious Gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, and I pray that I will be filled with a deep hunger and thirst for You always. Jesus, I trust in You.
A “Hard” and Deep Mystery
Saturday of the Third Week of Easter
As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” John 6:66–67
Today’s Gospel concludes the beautiful and profound sermon on the Bread of Life (see John 6:22–71). When you read this sermon from beginning to end, it is noticeable that Jesus moves from more general statements about the Bread of Life that are easier to accept to more specific statements that are challenging. He concludes His teaching just prior to today’s Gospel by saying very directly, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” After Jesus said this, many who had been listening to Him left Him and no longer followed Him.
There are generally three common attitudes people have toward the Most Holy Eucharist. One attitude is that of profound faith. Another is that of indifference. And a third is what we find in today’s Gospel: disbelief. Those who walked away from Jesus in today’s Gospel did so because they said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” What a great statement and question to ponder.
It is true, in a certain way, that the teaching of Jesus on the Most Holy Eucharist is a hard saying. “Hard,” however, is not bad. It’s hard in the sense that belief in the Eucharist is only possible through a faith that comes from a deep interior revelation from God. In the case of those who walked away from Jesus, they heard His teaching, but their hearts were closed to the gift of faith. They remained stuck on a purely intellectual level, and, thus, the idea of eating the Flesh and Blood of the Son of God was more than they could comprehend. So who could accept such a statement? Only those who listen to our Lord as He speaks to them interiorly. It is only that interior conviction that comes from God that can be proof of the truthfulness of the Holy Eucharist.
Do you believe that when you consume that which appears to be only “bread and wine,” you are actually consuming Christ Himself? Do you understand this teaching of our Lord on the Bread of Life? It is a hard saying and a difficult teaching, which is why it must be taken very seriously. For those who do not flat out reject this teaching, there is also the temptation to be somewhat indifferent to the teaching. It can easily be misunderstood to be just symbolism in the way our Lord talks. But the symbolism is much more than just symbolism. It’s a profound, challenging, and life-changing teaching of how we share in the divine and eternal life our Lord wishes to bestow upon us.
Reflect, today, upon how deeply you believe this hard saying of Jesus. The fact that it is a “hard” saying should make you seriously examine your own faith or lack thereof. What Jesus teaches is life-changing. It’s life-giving. And when clearly understood, you will be challenged to either believe with your whole heart or turn away in disbelief. Allow yourself to believe in the Most Holy Eucharist with your whole heart and you will find that you are believing one of the most profound Mysteries of Faith.
My glorious Lord, Your teaching on the Most Holy Eucharist is beyond human comprehension. It is a mystery so deep that we will never fully understand this precious gift. Open my eyes, dear Lord, and speak to my mind so that I may listen to Your words and respond with the deepest faith. Jesus, I trust in You.