During this strong debate of recent days on the reopening of churches for the celebration or otherwise of Holy Mass, I share my reflections with you, taking as a starting point today’s liturgy.
Dear friends, today Stephen has made clear the real eternal problem of man’s difficult relationship with God: ‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it’. The concepts of ‘still-necked’ and ‘uncircumcised in hearts’ adequately translate the scale of man’s problem. A stiff-necked person is somebody who always wants to do something on his own, being rooted in an idea, a decision, more out of mental habit and a pre-conceived distrust in the ideas and the advice of other people than because of a convinced belief. This mental closure of the stubborn person is always damaging in a relationship of co-existence, a relationship of working together. In the biblical mentality, circumcision is a ritual act that beyond the material translates membership of the chosen people and the taking on of responsibility for a better world as its creator wanted.
Stephen was thus saying to the people, to the elderly and to the scribes that they had totally closed themselves to the project of God with their resistance to the action of the Holy Spirit. The paradox is that man is always ready to turn to God when he can go on no longer or to use God as he so wishes. Thus in the gospel, despite all the miracles that Jesus worked for them, people went on asking him: “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?”
But Jesus in a firm way purifies their erroneous visions and teaches them that God is not and never will be an object in the hands of man. God is God, and that’s all. And it is for this reason that to the statement “Sir, give us this bread always”, Jesus answers them: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst”. For them this is a call to faith, that is to say aware and loving adherence to his project of salvation. Who really adheres to faith knows that Christ is the real bread of life.
This Bread of life for which so many of you strongly hunger and thirst at this moment when it is impossible to receive it. How many of you call to ask for communion and rightly receive it respecting the anti-infection rules. This is truly a sign of hope that leads us to pray unceasingly and to follow even more any rule that is pointed out to us to defend the health of the general public and of individuals so that Jesus, the Bread of life, made a sacrament in the Eucharist, is restored to the worship and communion of his true friends. To the Lord, therefore, we entrust this hope with the words of the praying author of Psalm 30 which has just been proclaimed: ‘Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me. For you are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me…Into your hands I commend my spirit’.
Praise be to Jesus Christ!