Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the persecution and the eventual martyrdom of St. Stephen, the very first martyr of the Church, one of the seven men who were chosen to be the first Deacons of the Church in serving the people of God. That was at a time when the Church was still in its very earliest beginnings, when the numbers of the faithful rapidly increased as many more of the people came to believe in the Lord Jesus and in His salvation.
However, great persecutions were soon to follow, as the Jewish authorities and the religious and community leaders began to lead an oppressive and intimidatory campaigns and crackdowns against all those who believed in the Lord and in His teachings, as shown in what happened to St. Stephen. False witnesses were brought in to accuse the holy servant of God, as the enemies of the Lord were not able to match him in wisdom and power.
St. Stephen nonetheless stood faithfully and courageously against his enemies, against all those who persecuted and oppressed him and his Master. He spoke with wisdom and eloquence of the Holy Spirit, even though he was alone amidst many enemies and all those who cried out for his death. The Lord was with him and He guided him, and that was how St. Stephen could be so courageous and faithful, despite all the challenges he faced.
And this is related to what the Lord has said to the people in our Gospel passage today, when the people looked for Jesus after He has performed the miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and countless other women and children. He told the people how they were looking for superficial things in their minds and desires, when they flocked to see Him, because they wanted to receive satisfaction of their flesh, to be filled with good food and other earthly pleasures.
That was what they sought when they went to find the Lord, and in fact, they wanted to make Him their King, but the Lord went away from them and hid Himself. That was why they went searching for Him in the first place. But the Lord told them and in fact rebuked them, saying that to be His true disciples and followers, they must truly have faith in Him, and not just because they think that they are able to benefit and enjoy pleasures in life through Him.
As what our first reading passage reminds us all today, to be the true, dedicated and faithful followers of Christ in fact requires us to be firm and steadfast in our faith, in our belief in the Lord’s truths, even despite challenges, oppositions, difficulties and trials we may have to face in life. St. Stephen endured it all, because he truly had faith in God, and he had entrusted himself so completely to Him, that he gave it all to the Lord.
While the people in the Gospel passage sought satisfaction, fulfilment and pleasure for themselves, St. Stephen sought for true justification and glory in God, by his own steadfast faith and by his courageous actions, standing up for the truth of God even in the face of persecution and opposition from the whole world. St. Stephen knew that all the goodness and the joys of this world could not be compared to the true joy that God alone can give.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as the Lord Himself mentioned in our Gospel passage today, He is the Bread of Life, and all of us who truly share in His Body and in His Blood, having received Him into our lives with faith, as St. Stephen had, will receive the true joy and satisfaction in life. Are we all able to overcome the temptations of the world, the seduction of pleasure and worldly ambitions? We may encounter the same challenges and difficulties that St. Stephen and our predecessors had encountered, as they were persecuted and oppressed in many occasions, but with God by our side, we will be able to persevere and triumph in the end.
May the Lord be our guide, and may He grant us the strength, wisdom and the courage, that we may follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the saints, St. Stephen and all those who have faithfully stood by the Lord and devoted themselves to defending the faith that they have received through the Church. May all of us be true disciples of the Lord, in all of our words, actions and deeds. Amen.