Monday of the Third Week of Easter
(Acts 6:8-15; John 6:22-29)
Acts relates that Stephen and six other Hellenist Jews are ordained to bring food to Hellenist widows. However, it never describes them doing so. Rather, whatever else they do, Stephen and another Hellenist Jew, Philip, proclaim the word of God. It is not far-fetched, therefore, to think of their table ministry as involving the Eucharistic table. Perhaps they offered mass in the vernacular to meet the spiritual needs of Greek-speaking Jewish converts in Jerusalem.
Today’s first reading tells of Stephen being brought to the Sanhedrin because of his preaching. It says that false witnesses testify that he spoke of Jesus destroying the temple and changing Mosaic customs but never verifies these accusations. In his long polemic against the Jews that follows the statements, Stephen does say that God “does not dwell in houses made by human hands” – an obvious reference to the temple. Not only does Stephen speak forcefully then; he also represents a new trend within the early Church to move away from temple-centered Jerusalem to Greek-speakers with a universal spirituality.
As in the early Church with Stephen and the Hellenist Jews, the evangelizing Spirit is moving the contemporary Church to new frontiers. The new frontiers, however, are in many cases long-Christian countries that have lost their dynamism. In the United States we witness the energy of immigrants from Mexico and Latin America, from Vietnam and the Philippines, from Africa and Poland packing otherwise half-empty Catholic churches with a welcome vigor. It is tempting to criticize the enthusiasm as simplistic, but a more honest appraisal might recognize it as the vibrant faith of the first believers in Christ.