Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lord, To Whom Could We Go? You Have The Words Of Everlasting Life!

Acts of the Apostles
Chapter Nine

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. "Aeneas," Peter said to him, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat." Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas[a]), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, "Please come at once!"

Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

Tabitha is an important person in the Christian community at Joppa. Indeed, Tabitha is identified as a “disciple”. She is the only woman explicitly identified as a disciple in the Acts of the Apostles. … It becomes clear that Tabitha is valued as a philanthropist, a woman, seemingly a widow herself, who takes care of the needy widows in Joppa out of her own resources. … It is no wonder that the widows weep when she died, and are among the first to show that their benefactress has been restored to life. The Women’s Bible Commentary

A disciple is someone who follows the discipline of a teacher. Like Tabitha, our discipleship invites us to follow the example as well as the instruction of our teacher, Jesus Christ. When we are called to stand in solidarity with the poor and the needy, we must first get in touch with our own poverty, which may not be material or physical, but emotional, moral or spiritual.

The Gospel According to John
Chapter Six

Jesus said to his disciples:  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

On hearing this, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

Commenting on this gospel, Saint John Chrysostom (AD 347-407) wrote “When questions are raised about “how”, they are often followed by unbelief.” When Jesus told his disciples that his body and blood were truly food and beverage, and unless they ate his body and drank his blood, they could not be his disciples, they turned their backs on him, and no longer followed him.

The same response occurs in our own day to the teachings of Jesus. There are communities of worship that call themselves Christian who believe that during the Eucharistic celebration the bread and wine brought to the altar are transformed into the body and blood of Christ. Some of them teach that at the words of Consecration, the bread and wine are no longer there, but have been replaced by the body and blood of Christ, present and alive under the appearances of bread and wine. That is called “transubstantiation”, by the theologians. There are communities who teach that the bread and wine are there, but the living Jesus is there at the same time. The theologians call that “consubstantiation”. And there are communities that teach that the Communion service is a memorial of the Last Supper, and that what starts out as bread and wine remains bread and wine, and Jesus is present in the community, but not in the Eucharistic species.

Lord, I pray for the grace to be able to come to you, especially when I am feeling weak and unsure of my belief in you, so that you might give me hope and heal me with your tender mercy.

Lord, I pray for the grace to believe in you, especially whenever my awareness of my limited understand me tempts me to question my faith, and feel that I am losing hope in your power to save me. Lord, with the Apostle Thomas, I say, “I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief!”

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