Friday April 27, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 5:34-42) Gospel (St. John 6:1-15)
In the Gospel reading, we hear that people began to talk about Jesus and say, "This, undoubtedly, is the prophet. This is the one Moses spoke of." Remember Moses, in Deuteronomy, said that God will raise up a prophet like himself and send him into the world; they were to obey that prophet when he came into the world. The people had been waiting in expectation. They also knew the time that Jesus was coming. Remember, the prophet Jeremiah tells us that there were going to be 70 weeks; but by the time the prophet Daniel came along, they were in the Babylonian Exile at 70 weeks, after Jeremiah’s prophecy. Daniel began to pray and ask the Lord, "How is it that you said we would be away for 70 weeks, but we are still in exile?" The angel Gabriel was sent from Heaven to Daniel, to tell him that it does not mean 70 weeks in chronological time but 70 weeks of years - there would be 490 years. So, they had a very clear idea of when the Messiah was to come into the world.
That is why, at the time of Jesus, they looked at Theudas, who came along; they looked at Judas the Galilean, who came along; and they sent people out to John the Baptist to ask, "Are you the one? Or are we to look for another?" They knew the time. When Jesus came along and the chief priest, the Sanhedrin, and all the important people rejected Him, they were rejecting what they knew was true. We have to understand the time Jesus was living in: It was the fullness of time, it was the fulfillment of the prophecy. They were living at a time of expectation, waiting for something to happen. So, Jesus comes into the world, and He begins to demonstrate that He is a prophet like Moses.
Today, we hear the beginning of John Chapter 6, which we will hear for the next week or so. Today, we hear about the multiplication of the loaves and the fish; then Jesus will walk on the water; and then He will launch off into the explanation of the multiplication. Think about what happened with Moses. There was the manna in the desert, then there was the crossing of the Red Sea, and then they had to understand the manna. That is the same thing Jesus is doing, showing Himself to be a prophet like Moses; yet, One who is beyond Moses. As we will hear in a few days: "It was not Moses who gave you manna in the desert, it was My Father; and He will give you the true manna." That, of course, is Jesus. We look at these texts from John and we have to be able to see them in their proper context. It is usually understood by the Scripture people as the Bread of Life; The Bread of Life Discourse is what they call it, because it is about the Eucharist. As we hear about the multiplication today of the loaves and fishes, keep that in mind; because all the things that happened toward the end of John Chapter 6 are the way that Jesus begins to explain the multiplication.
The important thing to also keep in mind is that He will tell the people: "You are coming here because you saw the sign, because you had your bellies filled, and not for any other reason." In other words, they did not look at the sign and say, "This is the Messiah." But rather, it was because they saw something extraordinary and they were able to eat. We need to look beyond the externals, we need to look at what Jesus is doing; as He already knew what He intended to do and He said this to test Philip’s response.
So too, we can look at ourselves and realize that Our Lord, at the Last Supper and at every Mass, tells us: "This is My body. This is the cup of My blood." We need to ask ourselves, "Am I looking just for signs and wonders? Or am I looking at what Jesus already knew He intended to do, and He is testing my response?" He is asking, "Do you believe?" Do you really, deeply, profoundly, truly, with your whole heart and soul and strength, believe that He is truly present under the forms of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament? Look beyond the signs, look beyond the externals, look beyond natural food, and see something which is real, true, and supernatural: The Real and True Presence of Jesus. He is there, simply testing our response. We cannot see, we cannot taste, we cannot feel, but we believe. What is our response? Is it one that is on the natural level? Or is it one like Thomas? When he saw the wounds of Our Lord he said,"My Lord and My God." That is what we need to be able to say when we look at Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The proper answer to His test is to believe in Him as Lord and Messiah, and as the One who is truly present under the forms of bread and wine in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.