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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Monday of the third week of Easter

Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.

Why the interference? Stephen was working great wonders and signs among the people in Jerusalem. Why not let him alone? People were probably being healed and others were coming to faith in Jesus. But certain Jews from northern Africa and Asia Minor and others from Judea could not let it go. At first they were curious to hear what Stephen was debating, but their curiosity quickly grew to judgment and then crossed the line to malevolence.

To understand their side, we need to dig a little. Some of the Jews debating with Stephen were descendants of Jews enslaved by Pompey after his conquest of Judea in 63 B.C. Holding tightly to their Jewish faith was what brought them through the horrors of slavery and its aftermath. They loved their religion and reacted strongly to St. Stephen, who seemed to be preaching a different message of salvation. Had they opened their minds, they might have come to know Jesus, and Stephen would have been able to continue his witness to Jesus’ resurrection. Instead they made the deadly decision to find false witnesses to accuse Stephen of blasphemy.

The people following Jesus in the Gospel also missed the point. They thought they were going to get all the bread they wanted to eat. But Jesus tells them that the food that they really need is nonperishable and lasts for eternal life. They ask what they can do to receive this food, and Our Lord simply answers that they should believe in the one whom God sent.

The lessons learned from the readings today seem to invite us to keep an open mind in discussing our faith. The more we understand the persons opposite us, the better we will be able to speak to their needs. Had Stephen learned the history of the Judean Jews, he might have been able to win them over. They did not give him the chance, however. Fear that something was being taken away from them propelled them to violence. If we could all keep 1 John 4:7 in mind—“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”—the world would not only be a kinder place but well on its way to full communion with God.

Easter blessings to all,
Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.