Scripture Reading for Today: Acts 6:8-15 (read it here)
Stephen was a leader of the young Christian community in Jerusalem and was the first of the seven chosen to manage the daily distribution to the poor.
The Acts of Apostles introduces him as a man filled with faith, wisdom, grace, and power and testifies to his spiritual strengths. God gives him the power to work signs and wonders in his service to the Lord.
Members of the Synagogue of Freedmen engage Stephen in lively debate. Most probably, these were Jews who had formerly been enslaved by the Romans and then set free, who had come to Jerusalem from several places in the Mediterranean basin. They approach Stephen probably because they share with him their fluency with the Greek language.
Despite all their efforts, they cannot prevail over Stephen’s wisdom—further evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit working through this faithful servant of the Lord.
In his confrontation with the people, elders, and scribes, Stephen is falsely accused of blasphemy (that is, cursing or slandering the name of God, which was a crime that carried the death penalty according to the Old Testament) to purge such evil from the community.
The Acts of the Apostles does not record for us Stephen’s words about “this Jesus the Nazorean,” but his message would not have been, as the false witnesses claimed, destruction of the Temple and change of the Law, but, more likely, their fulfillment by the Risen Lord, and that in God there is no favoritism or distinction between Jews and Gentiles.
This claim made against Stephen recalls an essential part of Jesus’ trial, in which he states that the Temple of his body would be destroyed but would be raised up again within three days.
The source of Stephen’s power was the Spirit given to the community at Pentecost. Stephen’s grace and strength, as well as his sufferings, situated him as a prophet, and Stephen eventually suffered a prophet’s reward—death.
The purpose of Stephen’s experience overlapping with Jesus’ experience is to assure the early Christian community that Stephen was an authentic witness in continuity with Jesus even though he was not one of the Twelve.
The Acts of the Apostles concludes with the detail of Stephen’s face shining like that of an angel. In other words, Stephen manifested the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus made, that followers need not fear when they are dragged before tribunals, for the Spirit will grant them wisdom.
In the Eucharist we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, the food and drink that strengthen us in our journey of faith and enable us to be true witnesses to the Lord’s death and resurrection, despite the opposition and ridicule we may encounter.
Let us commit ourselves again to the Lord and accept his mission.
Led by Mary, let us be true witnesses to the Lord by our words and deeds.
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Que la palabra de Cristo habite y se sienta a gusto en ustedes (Col. 3:16)
Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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