Acts of the Apostles 7:55-60
Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them;” and when he said this, he fell asleep.
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
I, John, heard a voice saying to me: “Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates. “I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let the hearer say, “Come.” Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water. The one who gives this testimony says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
Gospel Cycle Cycle C
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
We can hear the strength of these readings as we come closer and closer to the great celebration of Pentecost, completing the great cycle of seven days seven times. We have been listening to the Acts of the Apostles and hearing how the great and yet totally simple teachings of Jesus Christ began to touch people and to draw them into communities of believers and into one larger community.
Today the reading the Acts of the Apostles tells us about the death of Stephen. Sometimes we might think of Stephen, this early follower of Jesus Christ, as a bit obnoxious to those who were angry with him. This kind of obnoxiousness happens all the time and not just about religious beliefs. But it never justifies killing the one who is obnoxious. Today in many cultures we have guaranteed the rights of most people to be obnoxious and to make really ugly and even blasphemous statements about things that others consider holy and sacred.
All one has to do is read the modern forms of communication to know that we humans have not advanced much since the time of Stephen in being able to control our anger when someone attacks something that we consider holy and sacred.
But if the sentence from the second reading has any truth (Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.) then we want to learn how to follow the Lord Jesus and live as He did. It will not be easy and even those of us who have been following him for years and decades still do not find living in His manner easy or automatic. Instead, every day we much choose again to walk with the Lord.
Jesus really wants us to be one. When He says “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you,” He really means it and it is so astounding that we find it almost impossible to believe. Jesus wants us to be one in the same way that He and the Father are one. We cannot even begin to imagine this closeness—much less with someone with whom we totally disagree.
Yet we are invited to spend some time today thinking about how different our world would be if we really recognized that we are one! Most of the time we only want to be one with those who think like us and who appreciate us deeply. We don’t even want to consider being with people whose lives are terribly different from our own or whose way of thinking seems entirely foreign. Often we begin to find ways not to be around such people. The readings today invite us to walk in the way of the Lord Jesus and begin to recognize that we are all one.
The only way that leads to unity is the way of love. For us who follow Christ, the way of love means to follow Him. He is the great teacher of love and compassion. May our hearts be moved today to seek Him more and more and to strive to live as He lived. May His word be a light to our paths.