The way to the Father

On November 26, 1965, Time magazine had a story that can give us all food for thought. An electrical fuse about the size of a bread box failed, resulting in 80,000 square miles along the U.S.-Canadian border being plunged into darkness.

All the electrical power for that entire region passed through that single fuse. Without that fuse, no power could reach any point in that vast region.

- So it is with us and God. Jesus is the door, the gate, the fuse box, and not one of us can get to the Father except through Jesus (Lk 13:24).

- Jesus, God’s creative love, God’s omnipotent almighty power - all made available down here on earth. Without him we are in total and eternal darkness.

- taken from “150 More Stories for Preachers and Teachers” by Jack McArdle

Acts of the Apostles 5:34-42

One member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee called Gamaliel, who was a doctor of the Law and respected by the whole people, stood up and asked to have the apostles taken outside for a time. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin, “Men of Israel, be careful how you deal with these people. There was Theudas who became notorious not so long ago. He claimed to be someone important, and he even collected about four hundred followers; but when he was killed, all his followers scattered and that was the end of them. And then there was Judas the Galilean, at the time of the census, who attracted crowds of supporters; but he got killed too, and all his followers dispersed. What I suggest, therefore, is that you leave these men alone and let them go. If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God.”

His advice was accepted; and they had the apostles called in, gave orders for them to be flogged, warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. And so they left the presence of the Sanhedrin glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.

They preached every day both in the Temple and in private houses, and their proclamation of the Good news of Christ Jesus was never interrupted.

John 6:1-15

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee - or of Tiberias - and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?” Jesus said to them, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as they wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, “Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.” So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, “This really is the prophet who is come into the world.” Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

Gamaliel held a reputation of one of the greatest teachers in the history of Judaism. Among his teachings, he urged Jews to be kind towards Gentiles. Today’s reflection is on that last bit - kindness towards Gentiles. Gentiles are people who are not Jewish. When Christians speak about Gentiles today, we normally refer to pagans, i.e. non-believers.

We see that in the first reading, Gamaliel tells the high priests that they should not condemn the apostles for preaching what they believe to be from God. Let time tell, says Gamaliel. If what the apostles are preaching does indeed come from God, it will last. If what they are preaching comes from men, then it will die out. Wise words indeed, and it is easy to see why Gamaliel is highly respected.

As we know, Christianity has been around for 2,000 years. Gamaliel has been proven right - that what the apostles were preaching about did indeed come from God, otherwise it would not have lasted this long.

In our time (pun intended), the Catholic Church has taught that the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy” in the religions of other faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. These are wise words, because these religions have lasted for thousands of years, and are older than Christianity. Clearly then, these religions also come from God, for if there came from men, they would not have lasted this long. They “reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men”, says a Vatican II document called “Nostra Aetate”, which means “In our time”. This document was released on October 28, 1965, just a month before the power failure in the story above.

What does this have to do with the gospel reading for today? In the first line of the gospel reading, we see that Jesus “went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee - or of Tiberias”. Tiberias was built by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great. During Herod’s time, the Jews refused to settle there, because the presence of a cemetery rendered the site ritually unclean.

This is where he fed five thousand men, not including women and children. What is significant here is that Jesus didn’t feed five thousand Jews; he fed five thousand men, mostly Gentiles. This is important because Jesus didn’t come just for the Jews; he came for everyone, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, rich or poor. Jesus is not just Saviour of the Christians; he is Saviour for everyone. And Jesus is reflected in every religion, because “Nostra Aetate” tells us that they “reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men”. Jesus is the Truth, and he is saviour of all people, regardless of religion.

Heavenly Father, we pray that through your Holy Spirit, all people may come to experience the full revelation of yourself in your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The full revelation of God in Jesus.

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