Are We Looking for Signs??
Tuesday May 6, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 7:51-8:1a) Gospel (St. John 6:30-35)
In the Gospel reading today, the people say to Our Lord that their ancestors had manna in the desert and then ask Him, “So what sign are you going to work?” Now we have to keep in mind the context. Right at the beginning of chapter six of Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus feeds the multitude from just a few loaves. He had multiplied the bread; they had all eaten it; they gathered up twelve baskets full of fragments; and yet these people are asking, “What kind of sign are you going to be able to work?” Of course, immediately after that He walked across the lake, although they did not see Him do that, but nonetheless, here they are once again asking for signs.
The Lord tells us what the sign is: He is the sign. He said that the true bread from Heaven is the bread that comes down to the earth and gives life. And then He tells us that He Himself is the Bread of Life. From the context in the bit of the reading that we have today, it would appear that all one needs to do is believe. He says, “Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.” So as long as we believe that Jesus is the Bread of Life and we can feed upon His teaching, it seems that therefore we have everything we need. We will, of course, see that things are a little bit different than that. It is not merely feeding upon what He has taught us, but it is to feed upon Him Himself, to be able to receive Him in the Eucharist. One could say that there is bread for the mind in what He teaches, but it needs to go beyond just the mind – it has to go to the heart. It is not enough just to be able to soak in what He taught, to be able to be “wowed” by the beautiful things that come from the mouth of Our Lord, because that just stays up in the head, it does not get to the heart. We have to be able to feed upon Jesus Himself.
It is that same point that we need to do more than know about Jesus; we need to know Jesus. To know about Him is in the head; to know Him is in the heart. In this case, if we are going to be able to feed upon the Bread of Heaven, it is not merely the feeding of the mind but of the heart. And so indeed He has taught us. He is the true Bread Who came down from Heaven; yet, at the same time, He Himself is the Bread which feeds His people. He is the One Who gives to us the Bread that will feed the soul. It is in this way that He can mean that anyone who comes to Him will never hunger and anyone who believes in Him will never thirst. That is, if we come to Him in the Eucharist, if we believe in Him in the Eucharist, it is the soul which will be filled and satisfied. It is not about the body; it is not merely about the mind; it is about the fullness of the person. It is the mind and the will. It is the fullness that He fills up.
And so, as He is present among us in the Blessed Sacrament, we just simply need to ask ourselves, “Do we have the faith that Our Lord is asking of us? Or do we have the faith of these people?” They saw the Lord work a miracle and then they asked Him, “What sign are you going to work?” We come to Mass every single day and we see the same miracle being worked day after day after day when bread and wine are changed into the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Are we going to come before the Lord and say, “What are You going to do to prove to me that You are the One? What sign are You going to work? How do I really know?” Are we going to look for some extraordinary things to happen when we receive Holy Communion, when really what needs to happen is we simply need to have the right disposition when we receive Holy Communion?
You see, we put the focus all too often in the wrong direction. We make it His problem instead of ours, and we wonder why we do not seem to get anything out of Communion, why we have not changed. “If we are united with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, why do I not see the effect of it?” I can guarantee you it is not the fault of Jesus Christ. So that only leaves one party who can be at fault. It is not we who should be asking Him, “What sign are You going to demonstrate? What are You going to do to show Who You really are?” He has done all that and we know the truth. And so it is He Who looks at us and says, “Now what are you going to do so that I really can feed your soul? What disposition are you going to have as you receive Me in Holy Communion? Is your heart open to be willing to be changed, to be willing to be transformed?” Or is the Eucharist something that we keep at an arm’s distance and we do not allow it to sink in? He has done everything. He alone is the Bread come down from Heaven; we know that already. He has fed the mind and we know the truth. Now the question is opening our heart to receive that Truth, Who is Jesus Christ, and allow Him to change us into Himself.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.