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April 13, 2018 - Right Under Our Noses...

Friday of the Second Week of Easter

Scripture Readings

How difficult it is, sometimes, to see the significance of the things we do on a repeated basis.  When we first moved to Ohio, all my surroundings were new and it was exciting to venture to new places and get to know the town of Dayton.  We visited several of the MetroParks and the Boonshoft Discovery Museum and attended the wonderful festivals downtown and tried out some new restaurants.  In doing all that, we made new friends, good connections, and most importantly, began to feel that Dayton could be a home for us, and not just a random place on the map.

Now, of course, years later, I find myself driving around and not noticing my surroundings much at all, really - old or new. I take them for granted; I go from place to place by rote.  I think that's sad because it means I'm taking this place for granted instead of actively making it my home. And if I'm not actively making the place my home, I think that means I'm also not actively trying to be a neighbor and friend in this community. 

I've met a lot of people lately who are experiencing something similar in relation to their faith.  Traditional prayers seem boring; the Eucharist seems commonplace.  Maybe faith feels like less of a "home" and less of a space that enables us to live our lives in God's service.  If you're in that kind of spot, or have ever been in that kind of spot, today's scriptures hopefully give a sense of renewal.  

The gospel (John 6:1-15) is the familiar story about the five loaves and two fishes.  I think many of the early Christians must have found this story compelling, for this is the only story that is found in all four of the gospels!  John adds a small detail that is not found in the other texts though: John tells us that Jesus feeding the multitudes takes place close to Passover.  And it is especially important to note that if you look at the verses that come immediately before this story, we find Jesus saying, "For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you  believe my words?"  

Of course, we who have just recently witnessed the great high days of the Triduum know the significance of both Moses and the Passover.  Moses is the one who led the people out of slavery in Egypt; the Passover is the meal that helps us recall that God saved the Israelites and he saves us.  And it was the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the last night before he died.  That was the main meal, the one where Jesus shares his Body and Blood.  

I can imagine that the people Jesus admonishes when he says "If you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" are people who might also be finding it hard to keep up a sense of newness and mystery in their faith.  And who can blame them?  By Jesus' day, Passover meals had been celebrated for eight days a year, for at least a thousand years.  What could possibly be new about the Passover this year?

But in John's gospel, Jesus gives them a hint in the fishes and the loaves: he himself is the Passover lamb.  He himself feeds his people, and he feeds them abundantly.  Jesus himself is the NEW thing about Passover, and that new thing is right under their noses!  But they don't necessarily see him. Today's first reading (Acts 5: 34-42) raises a similar question: Gamaliel wisely stops persecution of the Christians by supposing that perhaps God is doing something new there too.  He is unsure, himself, but because he is unsure, he is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

This should make us ask: what new thing is God doing in our midst, right under our noses now?  And keep in mind that the new thing might be somewhat hidden by the seeming ordinariness of some "old" things.  

During this Easter season, let us pray for God to show us the new things he is doing in our lives.  Let us pray to see the resurrected Christ once again, as if for the very first time.

- Jana M. Bennett