April 23, 2012 - Monday of the Third Week of Easter

Today's Readings

The false witnesses reveal their problem with St. Stephen today. According to them, “This man never stops saying things.” I am sure they wish that he would stop saying things, but he never did. Really, the whole point of the killing him, making him the first martyr for the faith, was to force him to stop saying things.

A preacher is required to say things that people may not enjoy hearing. If I came with my own gospel, I promise you, it would be a pleasant and easy gospel, every part of it, because the words I say are directed equally to me as they are to anyone else, but if I preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I cannot stop saying things that upset people, because Jesus often said things that upset people.

A crowd crosses the Sea of Galilee to find Jesus. Does he welcome them with open arms? No. He informs the crowd that they are only following him for selfish reasons. They were filled with bread and fish, and they would like always to have abundant food that they did not need to work for. They ought to have seen the miracle as a sign of who Jesus is. Once someone understands who Jesus is, they cannot leave him. Like St. Peter who, after this crowd abandons Jesus, and Jesus asks whether he will go too said, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”

Jesus does not reject the crowd, but he does push back against them until they leave in frustration. By leaving, they prove that he is right. Nothing that Jesus said should have been able to make them upset with him. They were in no position to judge the words of Jesus, but they do judge him and decide against him. They would have preferred that he keep quiet and keep the bread and fish coming, but he insisted on saying things. If he had to keep saying things, he should have said comfortable, easy things, but he said difficult, confusing things instead.

Who are we to judge the Gospel? We cannot agree with Jesus when he says one thing and disagree with him later. The work of God is to believe in the one whom he has sent. Once we do that, the only logical action is to believe everything that Jesus ever said even if we are sure that it cannot be right.