First Reading: Acts 6:8-15
Gospel: John 6:22-29
WE ARE CALLED TO BE WITNESSES
In today’s Gospel, we find Jesus in conversation with a large crowd that has been following Him. Jesus says to them – and to us His present day followers, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” The crowd says to Him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus replies, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.” Jesus says to the crowd – and to us today, that we are to set priorities in this life. He tells us that we are to believe in Him, the Son sent by the Father, and that we are to seek to live out His teachings.
Our goal is not to see this life as the end all but rather as a stepping stone to the fullness of life which can only be found in Him. This is at the heart of the Easter message. Jesus dies to save us from our sins. Jesus conquers death; rises from the dead and returns to the Father. We are the sons and daughters of the Promise. The Promise is that if we take up our cross daily and follow Him, we shall be with Him forever. Blessed are we who believe in Him and act on His words.
Stephen, who is the subject of our first reading, is the first witness to die for his faith in Jesus. Stephen accepts Jesus as his lord and savior. Filled with zeal and empowered by the Holy Spirit, he gives witness to Jesus. Acts says that “filled with grace and power (Stephen) was working great wonders and signs among the people….(and his enemies) could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.” Unable to defeat him in public debate, they “instigated some men to say, ‘We have heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God’.” They present false witnesses against him. The end result is that they stirr up a mob to stone him to death.
Stephen died giving witness to Jesus as his lord and savior. Down through the centuries and up to this very day, countless men and women have courageously witnessed to Jesus by their words and deeds giving up their very lives for their faith. Groups that monitor discriminatory religious practices attest to the fact that large numbers of Christians throughout the world live under the scepter of persecution for their faith and many are murdered for their witness to Jesus.
You and I may not live in such circumstances, but we know that in our society which is increasingly hostile to the Catholic Christian faith, there can often be a price to pay for witnessing to Jesus. We may not be stoned to death but we may have to live with subtle discrimination. May we have the courage to stand firm in our witnessing to Jesus.
Brother Andre Mathieu, C.P.