Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are reminded again today that as Christians all of us are always facing hardships, trials and struggles, challenges and difficulties amidst the lives and the journey that we embark on in this world. However, we must not easily lose hope an we must remain firm in our faith in the Lord, because it is in Him alone we can find the hope, strength and consolation, as well as the assurance of eternal life and true joy and glory. We must always strengthen our faith and trust in the Lord, wholeheartedly believing that He, our Lord and Saviour, the Bread of Life, has the power to help us and to raise us up with Him, and that He will always be with us, never abandoning us even in our darkest and most difficult moments.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles of the persecutions and hardships faced by the earliest Christian community and the Church, in how the faithful were persecuted, arrested and encountered a lot of opposition and challenges especially from the Jewish community and the leaders, namely the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council. One of the seven Deacons appointed by the Apostles to serve the Church had been put to death by the mob, as St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, spoke courageously in the defence of the Christian faith and truth, amidst all the falsehoods and false testimony of the people whom they had bribed and employed to accuse St. Stephen wrongly of crimes and misdeeds against the Lord and against God’s people. St. Stephen defended his faith courageously, but he was stoned to death by the crowd.
As we then heard from that same passage, we heard of the beginning of a time of persecution against Christians, which the Sanhedrin treated as a wayward sect and misguided people, led astray by the False Messiah, Whom they believed to be Jesus Christ, the Man Whom they had arrested, handed over to the Romans, and condemned to death because of His supposed blasphemous acts against the Jewish Law and traditions. This was in fact due to the stubbornness of many of the members of the Sanhedrin, who belonged to the group of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as well as the Sadducees, each of whom had gripes and issues in opposing the works and teachngs of the Lord. Each one of them had in truth been mistaken and misguided in their way of observing the Law of God and in their way of life, but they adamantly and stubbornly believed that their beliefs were the right ones.
Those misconceptions and prideful attitude was the reason why many of them hardened their hearts and minds, refusing to believe in the Lord and in His truth despite having witnessed, seen, heard and experienced many of His miracles and words of great Wisdom, unparalleled and unprecedented. Some of them even associated what the Lord had done with the work of the demons, and accused Him of colluding with the demons, or in blasphemy against God. All of those attitudes and misunderstandings, stubbornness and attachment to worldly glory, power and desire ultimately prevented many from among the ranks of the Sanhedrin from coming to believe in the Lord. As we then heard about Saul, the future St. Paul, who was a young Pharisee filled with great and fiery zeal, in persecuting, arresting and torturing the followers of the Lord, the same kind of attitude, prejudices and wickedness was shown in the actions of the young Saul.
Yet, despite all the hardships and challenges faced by the followers of the Lord, most of them remained firm in their faith and endured faithfully the sufferings that they had faced. The Lord has also kept them in His providence and protection, leading them through their difficult times and sending them encouragement and strength to persevere through those challenges. He Himself has foretold all these to His disciples and followers, warning all of them that if the world had opposed, persecuted and treated Him as such, then His disciples and followers must also be prepared that they would be treated in a similar way as well. But He assured them that He would give them guidance and strength, and through the Holy Spirit that He sent to His Church, despite the trials and challenges that His followers had to face, but the Church still thrived and grew rapidly throughout those early years. Not only that, but even Saul himself was converted, and called to become one of the Lord’s greatest servants, as St. Paul the Apostle later in his life.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard the continuation of the discourse of the Bread of Life by the Lord Jesus to the assembled people, as He highlighted to them, how He is the Bread of Life Who has come down from Heaven, which was in truth a premonition and advanced revelation of what He would do for the sake of everyone, for the salvation of the whole world. As the Bread of Life, He would be broken down and given up for everyone to partake, much as how earlier on He had fed the multitudes of thousands of people who had no food with the multiplication of loaves. This time, He would feed them with His own Body, the Most Precious Body offered, broken and given to all of His people, and His own Most Precious Blood, also offered and outpoured for the salvation of the whole world, for all the people of God. He spoke to them revealing all of this truth, which the disciples likely would not have realised until everything had happened as the Lord Himself foretold it.
Through this sharing of His Most Precious Body and Blood, the Lord instituted the Eucharist to us, and bringing us together through His sacrifice, suffering and death on the Cross, and ultimately His Resurrection, into the Communion of the faithful, uniting all of us into His Body, the Body of Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. That is why the Eucharist we receive, which we believe is truly the Real Presence of the Lord in His Most Precious Body and Blood, is called Holy Communion, and only those who have lived and shared faithfully the full teachings of our Christian faith can partake in this most sacred gift that the Lord has granted to all of us. Through this Communion, uniting all of us in the Church, both those in this world, all of us, and all those who had gone before us, the Lord has shown us that He has always been with us, and He never abandoned us at all, even in our darkest moments and challenging times.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are reminded of this fact today, and as we continue progressing through this most holy and blessed season of Easter, let us all therefore do our part as the Christian faithful, the members of God’s own Body, the Church of God, to be evangelising and missionary disciples, righteous and good, faithful and just in all of our works, actions and deeds. Let us all be good role models and examples of our faith in our every words and actions, as well as in all of our interactions with one another. May the Risen Lord, Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, continue to bless and guide us all, and strengthen us so that we may persevere faithfully and continue to commit ourselves to His path, much as how our early Christian predecessors had done. May God be with His Church always, and bless its every works and good efforts. Amen.