SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 9:31 – 42; Ps 116:12-17; John 6:60 – 69 ]
“After hearing Jesus, many of his followers said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’” Jesus caused a scandal among His followers when He taught, “I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (Jn 6:53-56) We can appreciate their reaction because the Jews held that blood is the symbol of life and they were not to drink blood or for that matter, eat the flesh of a human being. As a result, we read, “many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.”
This is still happening today. Many Catholics are not happy with the Church’s teaching. They are demanding that the Church grant divorce and remarriage to those whose marriages have broken down. But the Church by so doing cannot at the same time teach that marriage is indissoluble. It is either one or the other. This is true for the other moral issues as well with respect to same-sex union, surrogate motherhood, euthanasia, abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilization and stem cell research involving human embryos. So many either stay in the Church but reject the teachings or some, to avoid the dilemma, leave the Church completely because they do not agree with the Church’s teachings.
Indeed, some of the teachings of the Church which are based on scriptures are difficult to accept logically. On some issues, reason alone will bring us nowhere because all have their own perspectives, depending on their premises. One’s worldview of the sacredness of life and marriage will determine the way one applies one’s line of reasoning. This explains why those who do not accept the Christian’s point of departure will not be able to accept the Church’s moral position, which is from the scriptures. In fact, the original Charter of Universal Human Rights is rooted in Christian principles from the scriptures. The world, which is becoming more secular, is seeking to establish principles for human rights based on reason alone without any theological foundations. By so doing, there are no longer any absolutes that anyone can agree on in arguing one’s moral position.
Hence, in the final analysis, the rejection of Christian doctrines lies in the lack of faith in God and in Christ. Without faith in Christ and in the Sacred Scriptures, it is very difficult to support our doctrinal and moral positions based on reason alone. This is why the Lord said, “no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.” Without the grace of God, we will not be able to arrive at faith in Christ. Unless we have faith in Jesus as the Son of God, there is no reason why we should believe in Him or accept the Bible as the Word of God. If we accept the inerrancy of the Word of God and believe “it not as a human word but as what it really is” then, God’s word will be at work in us believers. (cf 1 Th 2:13)
The truth is that we all have been given this grace to come to Christ by the Father. It is whether we recognize it and cooperate with God’s grace. God comes to us in so many ways to strengthen our faith in Him. It is whether we are ready to be docile and humble enough to accept in faith. That was why the Lord asked them, “Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” Indeed, the teachings of Christ cannot be perceived just by mere reason alone. We need to confess our faith in Him so that His Spirit can live in us and help us to see from the perspective of faith.
How can we, therefore, arrive at faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God? Jesus said, “What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?” In other words, we will come to faith only when we see the glorification of Jesus on the cross and in His resurrection. Only when we come to know that Jesus is from God even before He came to this earth, can we then accept His word as the message of eternal life. Our faith is not founded on anyone other than God alone who speaks through Christ, His Son. Without a deep encounter with the Risen Lord, our faith remains weak. This is the real reason why many Catholics have left the Church or remain out of fear, but at the same time, fail to live out the obligations of a Catholic.
But how can we see the Risen Lord today? We see Him at work in our lives, especially in miracles of healing and charity. In the first reading, we read how St Peter and the apostles continued the work of healing started by our Lord. They did what the Lord had instructed them. “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.” (Mt 10:7f) In today’s reading, St Peter healed Aeneas who was bedridden for eight years. He also raised Tabitha back to life, a woman who was well-loved for her works of mercy.
What is significant is that at the end of the miracles worked by Peter and the apostles, we find the same echo among them all. When Aeneas was healed, “everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they were all converted to the Lord.” When Tabitha was raised back to life, “the whole of Jaffa heard about it and many believed in the Lord.” Whether we like it or not, the miracles attested to the power of the Risen Lord at work in the lives of the Christians. In no instance, did the apostles claim to have healing power. Any healing was always done in the name of Jesus Christ and through prayer. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ cures you: get up and fold up your sleeping mat.” As for Tabitha, “Peter sent them all out of the room and knelt down and prayed.” Clearly, if the dead were raised, the lame able to walk again, it was the power of the Risen Lord.
Another way, we encounter the Risen Lord is to experience the consolation of the Holy Spirit as the early Christians did. The most important gift is peace. We read, “The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up.” Peace was the first gift of the Risen Lord to the disciples. It is the fulfllment of Jesus’ promise to them when He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (Jn 14:27) Even in persecution and suffering, we will find peace. The Lord said, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (Jn 16:33) Besides this gift of peace, we also have the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are the effects of His gifts. St Paul listed these fruits as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (cf Gal 5:22f)
Indeed, there is no way to convince a person to faith unless he or she has encountered the Risen Lord in their lives. This is why whenever I conduct retreats, my purpose is to help the retreatants to encounter the Risen Lord. Without this personal encounter with the Risen Lord, they will continue to doubt Christ, His teachings, the Sacred Scriptures, the doctrines taught by the magisterium and in themselves. But once they encounter the Lord, like the early Christians, they will live “in the fear of the Lord.” This fear of the Lord is not a slavish fear but one of reverential fear before God’s awesome presence and power. Once we encounter the power of God in our lives, like the apostles and St Paul, we will bow down in worship and declare with Peter, “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.” We will be like Job no longer, asking questions that we cannot answer, but submit in faith to God whose wisdom is beyond ours. (cf Rom 11:33-36 cf Job 38-41)
Finally, with the psalmist, we shall then say, “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise; I will call on the Lord’s name. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil before all his people.” When we know that He is love, and “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful” we can then surrender our lives in thanksgiving by being a servant of the Lord, doing what He wills of us. “Your servant, Lord, your servant am I; you have loosened my bonds. A thanksgiving sacrifice I make; I will call on the Lord’s name.” With Job we say, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” (Job 42:2f)
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.