Monday of the Third Week of Easter
(Acts 6:8-15; Acts John 6:22-29)
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives a glimpse of societal life in first-century Jerusalem. Stephen is a Greek-speaking Jew. He is evidently not from Jerusalem where Jews speak Hebrew. He also does not have much use for the Temple. Jesus established a new form of sacrifice that may be done in a home. So why have a Temple? When he criticizes Temple worship, he is opposed by other Greek-speaking Jews. These are “members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen.” Just because they come from other places does not mean they have no need of Temple sacrifice. They bring Stephen to the Sanhedrin, the governing body of Jews, for defaming the Temple. Neither they nor the governors will stomach Stephen’s criticism even with his angelic face.
For a while Christians were tolerated in first-century Judaism. They appeared as a sect together with Pharisees and Essenes. They accepted the Law but believed that Jewish hope for the Messiah was realized in Jesus. Judaism was flexible but the stress on the fault line between it and Christianity would soon give. The Church was persecuted and the disciples left Jerusalem. This led to fruitful missionary activity first in Samaria and then throughout the Greek-speaking world.
We should see the action as Luke, the author of Acts, intended. The Holy Spirit moved the Christian mission from a fair start in Jerusalem to the whole world. It disposed the people to hear the word of God as explaining the inner movements of their hearts. It does the same today when we listen carefully to our deepest yearnings.