Each time Pope Francis speaks to the world, he upholds the dignity of human life, while he cautions people about their lifestyle in terms of relationship with self, neighbour, God and the environment.
For example, in Laudato Si’ (no. 23), the Pope states ‘that the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.’ The Pope’s concern is that the world witnesses a ‘disturbing warming of the climatic system.’ This warming ‘is accompanied by a constant rise in sea level’ and by an ‘increase of extreme weather events.’ Both these factors have huge consequences for the planet and especially for people who live in poverty. The Pope calls humankind to ‘recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption’ in order to combat global warming. He also speaks of other factors that cause global warming. Do I listen to or take heed to Pope Francis through whom the Spirit of God speaks?
It is never all doom and gloom for Pope Francis. In Laudato Si’ (LS, 61), the Pope recognises that ‘our common home is falling into disrepair.’ However, ‘hope, would have us recognise that there is always a way out, that we can redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems’ (LS, 61). Hope is essential in this Easter season. The liturgy during this season lifts our spirits to rejoice and say Alleluia, because Christ is alive. Christians believe the Spirit of God is always with them. They can choose to listen or ignore the call.
In the reading for Mass today (Acts 7: 51-8:1) the Word proclaims Stephen’s challenge to the elders and scribes. He scolds them for their stubborn ways, resisting the Holy Spirit, persecuting the prophets, for killing Jesus and for breaking the Law. The scribes and elders did not like what they heard. They resisted the Holy Spirit. They were ‘infuriated and ground their teeth at him.’ Stephen turned to God and acknowledged Jesus’ presence. The council members got very angry and they stoned Stephen to death. While they stoned him, Stephen said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ In addition, he asked God ‘not to hold this sin against them.’ These words echo the words of Jesus on the Cross-when he gave up his life to the Father.
The response to the Psalm today (Ps 30:6) reminds the assembly of Jesus’ last words to the Father as he was dying on the Cross- ‘Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.’
In the Gospel (Jn 6:30-35), the people continue to look for signs from Jesus. Jesus explains that God gave them the ‘bread from heaven’ and this bread ‘gives life to the world.’ They want more bread. Then Jesus reveals himself saying, ‘I am the bread of life.’
Jesus, the bread of life comes to us when we receive Holy Communion. In these Covid-19 times, we cannot receive the Body of Christ. We can receive Jesus in a spiritual communion and ‘unite ourselves closely to him.’
The readings today draw us closer to Jesus as we recall his death on the cross. We understand how Jesus forgave his executioners on Calvary and how Stephen did likewise. We recognise Jesus as the ‘bread of life’ and we give thanks. We play our part in continuing Jesus’ mission, knowing as St Teresa Avila says, ‘Christ has no body now but ours [yours].’
Resources to support the themes of Eucharist and Reconciliation are available in the online VERITAS Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé religious education programme including the e-books, accessible on the Grow in Love website:
- The Gospel Acclamation for Mass today, ‘Alleluia, Alleluia! I am the bread of life, says the Lord. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst. Alleluia!
- Prayer for Forgiveness/ Paidir ag iarraidh Maithiúnais, Payer after Forgiveness/ Paidir taréis Maithiúnais
- Prayer before Holy Communion/ Paidir roimh Comaoineach Naofa, Prayer after Holy Communion/ Paidir taréis Comaoineach Naofa
- Paidreacha chun an Spiorad Naomh/Prayers to the Holy Spirit.
- Pope Francis believes that humankind can do something about global warming. What can you do in your family to combat global warming?
- In what way are you and your family protecting our common home?
Sr Anne Neylon