Scripture: 1st Reading: Acts6,8-15; Resp. Psalm: Ps119,23-24,26-27,29-30; Gosp. Accl.: Mt4,4; Gospel: Jn6,22-29
There is a point in discipleship that the disciple becomes so configured to the teacher that he does exactly what the teacher does. At that point, the disciple no longer lives his own life but the life of his master: he speaks, thinks, reacts, acts like the master. Such was the life of Stephen, the first martyr.
Stephen was appointed as one of the seven deacons or assistants to the Apostles, to relieve them of the burden of distributing the common good and resources of the new Christian community. But Stephen was also engaged in active preaching and evangelism. He was very effective in his witnessing to the truth and person of Jesus.
The word of God says that Stephen was full of grace and power, and that he did great wonders and signs among the people. They disputed points of doctrine with him but could not withstand "the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke." On account of his convictions and witness of life and the souls that were being led to the Church due to his powerful preaching, they instigated the people to fabricate lies against him that he uttered blasphemy. They also set up false witnesses against him.
So, the life of Stephen became totally similar to that of His Master who was also accused of blasphemy, against who false witnesses were brought, and on whom false charges were pinned. Stephen was accused of preaching that Jesus would destroy the temple and the customs of the people.
He was accused of preaching against the law. But in all these, Stephen was totally unfazed. He had come to know and believe in Jesus and nothing would change that. The word of God says that when they gazed at him, "all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel." That is what happens when one's life has been totally transformed and transfigured by the Master: he lives like the Master!
Our Lord today warned those who followed and sought Him not because they saw signs but because He gave them food to beware that the essence of life is not about food and drink. He warned them to understand that they must not labour for food that perished but for food that endured to eternal life, which the Son of man was going to give them. He told them that doing the work of God was nothing other than to believe in the One He sent.
Stephen understood this teaching of the Master. He knew that the essence of life was to sit at the feet of the Master, to do His will in all things. He knew this. He lived by it. He died for it. That is the kind of witnessing we are called to give. We are to use our lives for the greater glory of His name. That is the mission of every baptized believer. That was the mission Stephen understood and lived for.
As we begin a new Month today, the month of May, the 5th month of this year, may God bless all our endeavours, grant us greater commitment to Him, dispel our fears, brighten our hopes, strengthen our faith, give us courage to serve Him more and more. May this month be abundantly rich in blessings for us.
Let us pray: "Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, putting off our old self with all its ways, we may live as Christ did, for through the healing paschal remedies, you have conformed us to His nature." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.