Getting in God’s Wheelbarrow

(Acts 9:31-43; Ps 116; Jn 6:53, 60-69)


A man asked his friends if they believed he could push a wheelbarrow on a high wire over Niagara Falls. When they replied they did not, he told them to watch, and he did it, across and back. He then asked his friends if they believed he could do that. They replied they did believe, as they had seen him do it. He then told them if they really believed, to get in and he would give them a ride!

The readings today remind us that faith is more than mere belief – it is acting out of that belief, getting in God’s wheelbarrow. That we do by putting our complete faith in Jesus who as Messiah and Risen Lord offers us a share in eternal life, especially through forgiveness and healing in the Eucharist.

It begins with forgiveness. Every appearance of Jesus to his disciples after he rose from the dead was an experience of his unconditional love for his disciples in the form of forgiveness. They had betrayed him, denied him and abandoned him. After all that, they must have felt some fear of retribution or chastisement when he appeared to them. Instead, there was only forgiveness, peace and joy. That itself is a taste of eternal life.

But there is more. In the first reading, the post-Pentecost early church is growing peacefully, and St. Peter, filled with the Spirit of the Risen Lord, heals Aeneas who was paralyzed for eight years. That event carries the message that healing is meant to be part of the life of the church. While physical healings have happened over the centuries, as in Lourdes, the healing most needed is personal and relational.

We need not just forgiveness of our sins, but also healing of our sinfulness, that which makes us sin – our painful emotions such as anger and insecurity, our negative attitudes such as false pride and stubborn self-will, and our addictions, both process and chemical. This healing is a source of the new life that faith in Jesus is meant to bring us, symbolized by the resuscitation of Dorcas from death to life. That miracle was also accomplished by Peter’s strong faith in Jesus risen from the dead to a new, eternal life.

In the gospel, Jesus speaks of another source of that new life – his very own body and blood. To celebrate the Eucharist and receive communion is to receive Jesus himself into our inmost being – body, soul and divinity. This we Catholics call the Real Presence brought about by the power of the same Holy Spirit that conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb and raised him from the dead. This is radical faith and grace – what we see many of his disciples in today’s gospel found hard to accept so they walked away.

Graciously, as God never forces anyone, Jesus gave the disciples permission to also walk away. Peter’s answer probably went more like this – “We feel like walking away, and we want to walk away – but where would we go? We have come to believe in you and that you have the words of eternal life, so we are in for the long haul.”

That faith is what opened them up to receiving the forgiveness of Jesus and the healing he offered them, which in turn became in them, as Jesus promised, a spring welling up into eternal life.

Interestingly, the 12 Step program emerges once again as a wonderful model and way of accessing that eternal life. It takes those who practice the steps through a journey of powerlessness, faith in God’s power, forgiveness from God, ourselves, one other person and then all those we have hurt, healing of our defects of character, and a new life characterized by humble self-awareness, daily prayer and commitment to sharing and service.

Again, the Eucharist, celebrated with sincere faith, is our experience of the forgiveness and healing power of God’s unconditional love. It is also our greatest prayer. May our pondering of God’s word today strengthen our faith in Jesus and be for us an experience of forgiveness and healing. May it also empower us to get into God’s wheelbarrow and go for the ride.


Updated: April 20, 2024 — 3:58 am

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