May 2, 2017


May 2, 2017:  St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor

See a dozen connections with today?
Legend below


For the gospel
For Psalm 31
Pope Francis homily
Those who stoned Stephen didn't understand God's word.  Stephen had called them “circumcised of heart,” i.e. pagan.  There are different ways of not understanding God's word.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were good men, open to the truth, but they were afraid, not wanting problems.  They didn't understand, but when Jesus rebuked them, they let his words enter and their hearts burn, while those who stoned Stephen didn't want to listen.  This is the drama of the closed-hearted.
Ezekiel makes a beautiful promise to change the hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, hearts that listen and obey.  This causes suffering.  Closed hearts, hearts of stone, don't want to hear and only know the language of condemnation.  They don't say, "Explain it to me; why do you say this?"  The rebuke Jesus speaks of also led to the killing of the prophets; a closed heart can't let the Spirit in.  Stephen was filled with the Spirit; he understood everything; he obeyed the word made flesh.  A closed, hardened, pagan heart doesn’t let the Spirit in.  The disciples en route to Emmaus represent us, with our doubts and sins.  We want to move away from the Cross, from truth, but let's make space to hear Jesus, who makes our hearts burn.
Each of us enters into the dialogue between Jesus and the victim of the hearts of stone, the adulteress.  To those who want to stone her, Jesus says, “Look within yourselves.”  Look at Jesus' tenderness and obedience.  He's given life that makes us look for God's tenderness, confronts us, our sins, our weaknesses.  Ask God to soften the hearts of people closed in the law who condemn all outside the law; they don't know the word became flesh and witnessed to obedience.  They don't know God's tenderness and ability to replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh.  

  • Acts 7:51-8:1a  Stephen:  “You oppose the Spirit, like your ancestors who killed the prophets.”  They ground their teeth, but he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at God's right hand.”  They stoned him; witnesses laid their cloaks at Saul's feet.  He called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit....  Don't hold this sin against them,” then fell asleep.  Saul consented to his execution.
  • Jn 6:30-35  Crowd /  Jesus:  “What sign can you do, that we may believe in you?  Our ancestors ate manna in the desert.” / “My Father, not Moses, gives the true bread from heaven and gives life to the world.” / “Give us this bread always.” / “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
    • Creighton:  Jesus tells us he's essential for life.  Physical bread can grow mold and become inedible, but Jesus is the bread that brings eternal life.  When Jesus guides us to come to him and never hunger or thirst, he's saying he will satisfy our hunger and thirst for righteousness in God's sight....  
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Be plus":  When asked about his work, Jesus responded not by saying what he did but who he was who he was, "the Bread of Life."  Life in Christ is not primarily what we do, but who we are in him.  Stephen was a successful worker and gifted preacher, but his priority was being a disciple of the Lord, even to his death.  When we emphasize who we are more than what we do, we actually make our work more important; work expressing who we are in Christ is supremely important.  When we focus on being God's children, we're God's workers.  May we work because of who we are in the risen Christ.
    • Passionist:  Stephen's death is brought on by his condemnation of the leaders. With the crowd before him, he has a theophany.  They rushed him and began to stone him, but he prays for his murderers.  His death is cast against the backdrop of Jesus' crucifixion:  the confrontation with the authorities, the antagonism of the religious leadership, the crowd's frenzy, leaving the city, and his praying for his murderers just before he dies.  His death is the literal consequences of “taking up one’s cross and following Jesus.”  The Church has never been without the witness (Gk. martyr) of those brave enough to face evil down, supported by God and ready to forgive.
      St. Athanasius
    •  "I am the bread of life":  The Jews regarded the manna as bread of God.  There was a Rabbinic belief that the Messiah would give manna from heaven.  The Jewish leaders were demanding that Jesus produce manna from heaven to prove his claim to be Messiah.  Jesus responds that God, not Moses, gave the manna, and it was only a symbol of the bread to come; then he claims as only God can that he himself is the bread of life.  Only the bread he offers can satisfy our deep hunger with divine life to sustain us forever; it's the "one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Christ" (Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 20,2), healing for body and soul, strength for our journey to heaven.
    Dress legend
    • 'Dove' pin:  "You oppose the Spirit"; Stephen was filled with the Spirit (1st reading)
    • 'Angel' pin:  "You received the law as transmitted by angels" (1st reading)
    • 'Gun' pin:  "Your ancestors killed those who foretold the righteous one's coming; you've become his murderers" (1st reading)
    • 'Hands' pin:  "I see Jesus standing at God's right hand" (1st reading); "Into your hands I commend my spirit" (psalm)
    • Red/white shirt, white socks:  Red for Stephen's martyrdom (1st reading), white for St. Athanasius and Easter season
    • 'Stone/rock' tie pin:  They stoned Stephen (1st reading); "You are my rock" (psalm)
    • 'Signs' tie:  "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?" (gospel)
    • 'Wheat' pin:  "He gave them bread from heaven"; Bread of Life discourse (gospel)

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