Reading and Reflection For Thursday 4th May (When you have lifted up the Son of man)

First Reading: From the Acts of Apostles 8:26-40

26 The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Set out at noon and go along the road that leads from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.’

27 So he set off on his journey. Now an Ethiopian had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; he was a eunuch and an officer at the court of the kandake, or queen, of Ethiopia; he was her chief treasurer.

28 He was now on his way home; and as he sat in his chariot he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

29 The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join that chariot.’

30 When Philip ran up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’

31 He replied, ‘How could I, unless I have someone to guide me?’ So he urged Philip to get in and sit by his side.

32 Now the passage of scripture he was reading was this: Like a lamb led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep dumb in front of its shearers, he never opens his mouth.

33 In his humiliation fair judgement was denied him. Who will ever talk about his descendants, since his life on earth has been cut short?

34 The eunuch addressed Philip and said, ‘Tell me, is the prophet referring to himself or someone else?’

35 Starting, therefore, with this text of scripture Philip proceeded to explain the good news of Jesus to him.

36 Further along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look,is some water; is there anything to prevent my being baptised?’

37

38 He ordered the chariot to stop, then Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water and he baptised him.

39 But after they had come up out of the water again Philip was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.

40 Philip appeared in Azotus and continued his journey, proclaiming the good news in every town as far as Caesarea.


Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 66:8-9, 16-17, 20

8 Nations, bless our God, let the sound of his praise be heard;

9 he brings us to life and keeps our feet from stumbling.

16 Come and listen, all who fear God, while I tell what he has done for me.

17 To him I cried aloud, high praise was on my tongue.

20 Blessed be God who has not turned away my prayer, nor his own faithful love from me.


Gospel Reading: From the Gospel Account of Saint John 6:44-51

44 ‘No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise that person up on the last day.

45 It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God; everyone who has listened to the Father, and learnt from him, comes to me.

46 Not that anybody has seen the Father, except him who has his being from God: he has seen the Father.

47 In all truth I tell you, everyone who believes has eternal life.

48 I am the bread of life.

49 Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead;

50 but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die.

51 I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’


Reflection

Theme: When you have lifted up the Son of man

Do you know the healing power of the cross of Jesus Christ? When the people of Israel were afflicted with serpents in the wilderness because of their sin, God instructed Moses: “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8). The visible sign of the “fiery bronze serpent” being lifted up in the sight of the people reminded them of two important facts – sin leads to death and repentance leads to God’s mercy and healing. The lifting up of the bronze serpent on a wooden pole points to Jesus Christ being lifted up on the wooden cross at Calvary where he took our sins upon himself to make atonement to the Father on our behalf. The cross of Christ broke the curse of sin and death and won pardon, healing, and everlasting life for all who believe in Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world.

Either for him or against him
While many believed in Jesus and his message, many others, including the religious leaders, opposed him. Some openly mocked him when he warned them about their sin of unbelief. It’s impossible to be indifferent to Jesus’ word and his judgments. We are either for him or against him. There is no middle ground and no neutral parties.

When Jesus spoke about “going away” he was referring to his return in glory to his Father in heaven. Jesus warned his opponents that if they continued to disobey God’s word and to reject him as Lord and Savior, they would shut themselves off from God and  die in their sins. Jesus’ words echoed the prophetic warning given to Ezekiel that people would die in their sins if they did not turn to God and ask for his mercy and pardon (see Ezekiel 3:18 and 18:18). In every age God warns his people to heed his word before the time is too late to seek his mercy and forgiveness. God gives us time to turn to him and to receive his mercy and pardon, but that time is right now.

To sin literally means to miss the mark or to be off target. The essence of sin is that it diverts us from God and from our true purpose in life – to know the source of all truth and beauty which is God himself and to be united with God in everlasting joy. When Adam and Eve yielded to their sin of disobedience, they literally tried to hide themselves from God’s presence (Genesis 3:8-10). That is what sin does – it separates us from the One who is not only “all-seeing” and “ever present” to us, but who is also “all loving” and “merciful” and eager to receive us with open arms of mercy, healing, and forgiveness. When God calls you to turn your gaze and attention towards him, do you try to hide yourself from his presence with other distractions and excuses that keep you from seeking him and listening to his voice?

The proof of God’s love for us
Jesus went on to explain to people that if they could not recognize his voice when they heard his word, they would have the opportunity to recognize him when he is “lifted up” on the cross. Jesus pointed to the atoning sacrifice of his life on the cross as the true source of healing and victory over sin and reconciliation with God. The sacrifice of Jesus’ life on the cross is the ultimate proof of God’s love for us.

God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

To fail to recognize who Jesus is and where he came from is to remain in darkness – the darkness of sin, ignorance, and unbelief. But if we look to Jesus and listen to his word of life and truth, then we will find the way to lasting peace and joy with God. The Lord Jesus invites each one of us to accept him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Our time here in this present world is very limited and short, but how we live it today has consequences not only for the present moment but for our eternal destiny as well. Which direction is your life headed in right now?

“Lord Jesus, you came to set us free from sin, doubt, fear, and ignorance. Your word brings life, truth, and healing to mind, heart, soul, and body. Let your healing love free me from the blindness of sin and disbelief and from the destructive force of evil and wrongdoing. May I always find peace, joy, and strength in knowing your merciful love, truth, and goddness.”

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