7th Sunday of Easter – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“I Pray That You May All Be One”.
The first reading shows us that the martyrdom of Stephen is modeled on the death of Jesus. His stoning, the first death of a disciple, is the paradigm for how followers should face the end, with courage and compassion.
In the second reading the Spirit reassures us that the death of ‘martyrs’ is not a tragedy but a privilege by washing our robes clean and gaining the right to the tree The Gospel tells us that the night before Jesus died, Jesus prayed for us all. The unity in prayer connects us to the relationship to the One he knows as Father, and to his disciples and to our union with one another. A union based on love. Introductory Note: It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible. These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings. These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings. ‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Acts 7:55-60. 7th Sunday of Easter Yr. C
The story of St Stephen, the first martyr, takes up two chapters (6 & 7) in the Acts of Apostles. The story begins with the appointment of seven men (including Stephen) to help the apostles (these seven men were the first deacons). Stephen soon distinguishes himself through his disputes with foreign-born Jews about the relationship between Jesus and the religious culture of Judaism. Stephen is brought before the Sanhedrin and is asked to explain himself. He explains at great length in a speech that runs for some fifty-three verses, the longest of any speeches in Acts. Stephen has accused the Jews of being failures throughout the whole history in their relationship with God. Now, he says the killing of Jesus has changed everything and a new level of association has begun between God and human beings in which the Mosaic Law is no longer relevant. The Jews dissolved into rage and set about executing Stephen as a blasphemer. Stephen filled with the Holy Spirit then says that he can actually see Jesus in heaven, standing at the right hand of the Father (in a position of supreme authority and honour). The anger of the Sanhedrin reaches a new height. The carry Stephen out of town, strip off their outer garments, and set about stoning him to death. In these last moments of his earthly life, Stephen prays as Jesus prayed on the Cross. He asks for forgiveness for his persecutors and, as Jesus had commended his spirit to the Father, so Stephen commends his spirit to the Lord Jesus. Stephen’s glorious vision signifies Jesus’ approval and affirmation of what Stephen had said to the Sanhedrin. Christians are called to give witness to the risen Christ, to forgive those who persecute us and to proclaim the ‘Kingdom’ that Jesus taught. Psalm 97:1-2, 6-7, 9. (Missal Ps. 96.) In the Psalm, God is proclaimed King and is worshipped by the whole of creation. Not just Stephen, but all peoples are said to see his glory. He is the God whose judgment will vindicate his faithful, in contrast to the unjust court that condemned Stephen. Apocalypse/Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20. The second reading also tells us what the Spirit does. The reading is from the very end of the Book of the Apocalypse/Revelation that we have been following since the beginning of Easter, and we learn there that the Spirit’s function is for us to speak to Jesus, and to say “Amen – come Lord Jesus’. In Jesus’ absence, it is the Spirit that keeps us going and it is the Spirit that reminds us of the ‘truth’ about Jesus. Christ himself speaks, as Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. He is the ultimate reality. Because of his self-sacrifice, there awaits for all who remain faithful a home in Paradise and the ‘New Jerusalem’. It is the Spirit that reassures us that the death of the martyrs is not an ultimate tragedy; instead we hear “happy are those who have washed their robes clean” by their martyrdom. The Spirit, finally, is Jesus’ messenger to bear witness of these things to the churches, to enable us all to have a right to the ‘tree of life’ and to enter the city through its gates. How real is our belief in “realized eschatology” (the coming of Jesus)? Do we live as citizens of the ‘reign of God’, or do we hold onto dual citizenship as we frantically try to serve two masters? Do we acknowledge or deny the presence of Jesus in the world, who promised, “I am with you to the end of time”? We do not need an apocalypse to get us close to the edge of eternity. Eternity is available and Jesus is ready whenever we are. The whole Bible ends with words from the first Eucharistic liturgies, “Come Lord Jesus!” The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. John 17:20-26. 7th Sunday of Easter Yr. C The “Last Supper Discourse” of John has by now become the “Prayer of the Hour”. Jesus prays for those who will believe because of his word to his hearers. We remember how Simon Peter came to Jesus because of the word of Andrew. His chief prayer for them is that they be ‘one’, and they are to convert the world. Their unity is to mirror the unity of the Father and Son, a unity of total love that respects their individuality but which unifies their salvific plan. The words of Jesus provoked division in his hearers; some later left the community. This was the wish of neither the Father nor the Son. They wanted the unity of the Church to remain unbroken, like the seamless robe that Christ left behind, like the unbroken net that contained the 153 fish. Christians are divided into many different churches: Roman Catholic, Episcopian, Eastern Orthodox, and many different kinds of Protestant denominations. Even the Catholic Church suffers from deep and painful divisions among its members. As for converting the world – well, we have a long way to go, to say the least. That’s the bad news. If you look more closely, though, you’ll see a lot of good news, too. We all acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. We all share the same baptism and we all accept the same ‘Creed’ that we recite every Sunday. Whatever divides us is less than what unites us. Sadly we are all separated brothers and sisters in Christ in the one household of faith. We need to realize that families can sometimes break up, but the members never stop belonging to that family. Unity is not something that can be forced upon people. It is the fruit of love from the heart. Where there is real love, rivalry and jealousies will disappear and each will seek the good of the other. All will feel that they are ministers of Jesus and that Jesus is their sole Master. We can pick out two other significant words in this final paragraph of the prayer. The first is love. This word is rare in the first part of the Gospel – “God loved the world so much that he gave up his only beloved Son”, but it is more frequent in the second half, from the beginning of the ‘Passion Story’. “He loved them to the end”. This love of Jesus for his own reflected the mutual love of the Father and the Son. Believers were to love Jesus and to love one another. One who does not love his brother or sister, whom he/she can see, cannot love the God whom we cannot see. The other repeated word is to ‘know’. Earlier in the prayer, eternal life has been defined as “knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. The whole life of Jesus has been a life of making the Father known. We know the Father best when we realize that “God is love”. (1 John) It is wonderful to think that, on the night before he died, Jesus prayed for us. The unity in the prayer connects us all. Perhaps Jesus took the time to knit us together in a final prayer because he knew how weak are our bonds of love, how fragile is our communion, and how easily fragmented our unity can be.
Let us keep working for Christian unity. Let us keep building bridges of love to one another. Let us keep bringing the Gospel to people who are lost. All we can do is our best. We trust in God to do the rest.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 7th Sunday of Easter Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. …Steven, the first martyr, when called upon to follow Jesus, started to model his life on the virtues of the Lord. So strong was his faith, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, that he like Jesus faced his death with courage and compassion. Mon. …Stephen in the last moments of his earthly life prays as ‘Jesus prayed on the Cross’ for the forgiveness of his persecutors. Why do we as Christians find it so difficult to forgive those who sin against us in a far lesser way? Tue. …When we are called to give witness to the Lord in situations that may compromise our comfortable life-style or even put us at risk of damaging our reputation, our associations in our secular community or even possibly our safety, let us pray to the Holy Spirit for the courage given to Steven so that we may stand firm and never compromise our faith. Wed. …Do we live our lives as citizens of the ‘reign of God’ or are we unable to fully commit, cling to a convenient dual citizenship and try to serve two masters? Courage comes from God and not from the values of this world. Thur. …The words of Jesus still challenges and provokes division among his hearers. Often we want to interpret his teachings in a manner that would best suit our life-style and culture. The Word of Christ leads his followers along a narrow path with no space on either side for compromise. When we start to compromise the Word, divisions occur and unity is lost. As Christians of various denominations, we have betrayed the great desire of Jesus for his Church to be ‘One’. Frid. …Whatever divides us is less than what unites us. No Christian Church can assume to have the entire truth. It is only in the understanding of the Christian Scriptures together with the Apostolic Tradition and the learning from each other that we can strengthen our witness of the ‘Truth’, the ‘Love of God’ and all others Sat. …Let us all strive to be faithful to the ‘Great Prayer of Jesus’ and work tirelessly for that ‘Unity’ that Jesus wanted so much. Let us keep on building bridges of love for one another and trust in the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that we like Stephen may model our lives on the virtues of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer. Help us to recognize our failings in forgiving others and to truly forgive so that we may break free from the chains of our bitterness, resentment and hatred that are imprisoning us in a
state of isolation from Your grace. Change the ‘enmity’ in our hearts into ‘love and compassion’ so that we too may pray for those who hurt and persecute us. This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen. Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale. “Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.