Monday, 19 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Sixteenth Anniversary of the Papal Election of Pope Benedict XVI as Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to renew our faith in God and to recall our calling as Christians to be the faithful witnesses of the Lord’s truth and Resurrection, the bearers of the Gospels and the Good News of God’s salvation in our world today, just as St. Stephen, the holy Deacon and Protomartyr had done it during his own ministry, and how the other holy men and women of God, our predecessors, had done it.

In our first reading today, we heard the discourse on St. Stephen, one of the seven first Deacons of the Church appointed by the Apostles in establishing the Order of Deacons to minister to the needs of the people of God. St. Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, and passionately carried out his mission, doing the good works for the Lord and His people, as well as preaching the truth of God and the Gospels, and performing wondrous miracles before many.

It was not long that his efforts met tough resistance from the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council. The same people had attempted to stop the works of the Apostles and restrain them by ordering them not to continue the work in the Name of the Lord Jesus. However, as the works of the Apostles and the other disciples, including that of St. Stephen continued to flourish and grow, the Sanhedrin began to find ways to suppress their works, and what happened to St. Stephen was the result of this.

As St. Stephen went up against his opponents, who publicly challenged him and even those who had been paid to make false testimonies, those who were assembled against him realised that not even those were able to discredit, stop or argue against St. Stephen’s wisdom and power given to him by the Holy Spirit. St. Stephen was there alone in the assembly, as many gathered in opposing him and wanting to stop him and condemn him for his efforts and works. But the Lord gave him the courage to continue to preach the truth, and speaking without fear, even before those who hated and despised him and the Lord.

St. Stephen still in fact patiently ministered to those people who were assembled against him, and he spoke in great detail in the parts after today’s first reading in the Acts of the Apostles regarding God’s plan of salvation and how God had patiently led and guided His people throughout the past with love, and finally gave Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to be the Saviour of all, that by dying, He has taken up all of mankind’s sins, the sins of those same people assembled against St. Stephen, in order to redeem all of them from their sins and to free them from its chains and bondage of death.

This is the truth that the Lord Himself has also spoken before the people of God as mentioned in our Gospel today when He spoke to the assembled multitudes right after He had fed them all, five thousand men and many thousands more of others, with the miraculous breaking of the bread and the fishes. He spoke of Himself as the One Whom God had sent into the world, and as One Who has given Himself, as the Bread of Life, broken and offered for us, for our salvation.

All of us are witnesses and inheritors of the truth, of God’s amazing love to each and every one of us, His providence and blessings, His ever loving presence in our midst, and all that He has done for us, in loving us and in showing compassion towards us. St. Stephen and the many other saints and martyrs all spoke of this same truth, and many among them suffered and died for this truth. As Christians, we are all called to follow in their footsteps and partake in the effort to reach out to our fellow brethren.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we ready to take up our crosses and follow the Lord wholeheartedly? Are we willing and ready to follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, St. Stephen and so many other saints and martyrs, to stand up for the truth and to deliver this same truth to this darkened world? We have all been called to be the beacons of God’s light in this world, and therefore, let us all commit ourselves thoroughly to serve Him, and to be His faithful and good disciples at all times.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, in each and every moments of our lives. May He empower all of us to be His true disciples, and may all of us grow ever closer to Him, and also grow in faith and love for Him, always. Amen.

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