Good Morning, dear reader. It would seem that I have picked up a nasty bug. Despite that, I soldier on... so let's get to it!
Let me start with this… what is purposeful intent? It might seem a straightforward answer. It is doing something with meaning, with deep thought. You meant to do this, you expected this.. much like we’ll see Stephen when he looks up after telling off the old geezers (lol) of the Sanhedrin. We should approach our faith with that same purposeful intent. To really put thought and effort into what Jesus is trying to teach us. We also need to put that same effort into our prayer lives. Believe and you will receive! Ok… now on to today’s lesson…
This morning's reading in Acts shows us a very angry Stephen. I actually had a bit of a giggle at the things Stephen had to say! "You stiff-necked people.." (v51) Yup, that pretty much describes them! lol, He tells them that their archaic attitudes need to change. You can't keep people from speaking freely about something or someone they believe in. If they didn't like you or the things you had to say, you were thrown into some dank, dark prison and forgotten about. Things remained this way for a very long time. Now Stephen is calling them out. He'd had enough. Someone had to speak up. It might as well be him.
Stephen's courageous outburst can be explained by the fact that it was the Holy Spirit within him that gave him the bravery needed to speak out. This can be confirmed because we see in verses 55 and 56 that Stephen looked up, saw God and Jesus standing before him, "But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God". He wasn't just looking up.. he was looking up intently.. with a purpose, with rapt attention. He expected to see something. He expected something to happen.
At this point, the Sanhedrin had had enough. This guy needs to go and he needs to go now! So they drag him out of the city limits. But this still was not enough to satisfy their anger, so they decide to stone him. This will send a clear message that no one is to speak out against this counsel, no one is to speak of Jesus. Something very powerful then happens. As Stephen is being stoned, he looks heavenward and says "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (v59), followed by "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"(v60). Hmm... these words sound mighty familiar... Stephen is speaking the same words Jesus did as He was hanging on the cross. Here you are being persecuted for speaking the truth, and yet you tell God to not hold their sins against them. I don't think I could be that forgiving. I'd probably be thinking that eventually the Karma bus is going to come around and will make its stop in front of the Sanhedrin. Not Stephen. He wants to follow in Jesus's footsteps and ask forgiveness of these men.
As we move into the Gospel of John, we are still talking about the bread of life discourse. Jesus is trying to explain the whole idea but the men seem a little..dense? They want some giant show. "What sign can you do?" (v30). I would imagine that at this point Jesus rolls His eyes and thinks "What am I, a magician?!". Why do people always insist on proof? Does no one have faith anymore? Is faith not seeing but believing? Once the people hear this, they want to know how they can get in on this. They want what Jesus is offering.
Do you want what Jesus is offering? Are you looking for a deeper meaning in life? It is so easy to attain. All you need to do is accept Jesus into your heart. Allow Him to transform you and your life. Over these weeks, we have learned about how death and sin were overcome by a single sacrifice, Jesus. How one person gave His life so that we could be free. Free to worship, free to speak of Jesus's name, and free to believe in what He has to offer. We don't need signs and miracles for proof. We simply need to believe. Think about all this today. Think about what you need for you to believe in Jesus. While you're thinking of all this, try to remember that you should always be a nice human. 😇
Father Bill's reflection on today's readings: https://youtu.be/z6HGMslyI5k
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