April 29, 2022 –
St. Catherine of Siena
… He withdrew again to the mountain alone.
The Season of Easter sometimes is called “the season of the Church”. The reason for this is that Easter culminates in the feast of Pentecost, which is considered metaphorically to the “birthday” of the Church. The whole of the Easter Season, then, prepares us for Pentecost by focusing on several aspects of the Church’s life and mission.
For more than a week, beginning today, our Gospel passage at weekday Mass will come from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel account. If you have time, you might, for meditation, read this chapter of John 6 in its entirety each day next week. This chapter can help us profoundly to understand the life and mission of that Church of which we are individual members. Each weekday passage from John 6 can help us appreciate in a unique way the beauty of Jesus, who is the Bread of Life.
In the first fifteen verses of John 6, Jesus shows His fellow Israelites that the Law of Moses is not enough. The Law cannot fulfill the human person and cannot offer eternal life. The people in the crowd who witness this new miracle of Jesus multiplying the loaves are attracted all the more to Jesus. They recognize Jesus as the Prophet, one even greater than Moses. They believe that He can be their king in this world.
But what does Jesus instantly do? Immediately, He does something counter-intuitive. He withdraws to the mountain alone. Why did He withdraw from God’s people? He withdrew from them for the same reason that He often withdraws His presence from the soul of a Christian: that is, to purify the disciple’s desires.
Consider that Moses in the desert responded to the grumbling of the Israelites by drawing manna from Heaven. But this did not stop their grumbling. Throughout the forty years of Israel’s wandering through the desert, Moses had constantly to meet the needs of the Israelites as they continued to grumble. It was as if Moses was the only one who could truly keep sight of their true goal, the Promised Land: a land overflowing with milk and honey, where there would be no more hunger, and where they would be truly filled.
Yet even after the Israelites reached this Promised Land, they grew over the centuries to believe that their life there was the best God had to offer. They did not realize that their covenant with God was about to be fulfilled by a new and everlasting covenant. They did not realize that the Word of God, present in the Scriptures, had become flesh and was standing in their midst, offering to lead them towards eternal life. What they did not realize, they could not desire.