7th Sunday of Easter Year C
Theme of the week: Pray that all sons and daughters of God may one day be united in Christ.
The First Reading recalls the martyrdom of Stephen. There is striking similarities between the manner of Stephen’s death to that of Christ. Like Christ, Stephen was tried before the Council (Acts 6:12); dragged out of the city (verse 58); and killed. Before he died, he prayed to God to forgive his killers (verse 60), before committing his Spirit to God (verse 59). As the first martyr, Stephen became the first one to heed Christ’s call to take up his cross and follow in his footsteps, and he did so in a very literal way indeed. While you and I may not be called to literally give our lives for Christ, we are nevertheless called to carry his cross and follow in his footsteps. What is my response to this call? Do I humbly submit myself like Stephen, or do I try to run away?
The Second Reading describes a scene in heaven where martyrs like Stephen, “those who wash their robes” (verse 14), receive the gift of eternal life. Verse 17′s use of the words “come”, “thirty” and “water” reminds us of Isaiah 55:1 – “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters”. Isaiah 55 was referring to the Israelites’ return to earthly Jerusalem, their earthly home. Whereas the Book of Apocalypse uses the same imagery of thirst and water to refers to our return to the Heavenly Jerusalem, our heavenly home. It is in this New Jerusalem that the faithfuls, those who carry their crosses and followed Christ, will receive their eternal reward.
The death of Stephen was brought upon by believers who did not recognise Christ as God. In other words, it is through the division among the people of God that Stephen was put to death. In the Gospel, Christ prayed for these who do not know God (verse 25), that in time they will come to believe in Christ (verse 21), and be united in belief with other believers. In fact, disunity does not just manifest between believers and non-believers. As we have seen in the case of Stephen’s martyrdom, unity can also manifest among believers. This is the reason both Christ and Stephen prayed for their killers, their separated brothers, before their respective deaths. Lets pray for all our separated brothers and sisters, believers and non-believers, that all of us may be united as one body in Christ. May the Lord’s peace be with you. Amen.