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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 6,8-15

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people.

Then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia.

They found they could not stand up against him because of his wisdom, and the Spirit that prompted what he said.

So they procured some men to say, 'We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.'

Having turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin.

There they put up false witnesses to say, 'This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law.

We have heard him say that Jesus, this Nazarene, is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.'

The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Stephen was the first of the seven deacons chosen from among the Hellenistic Jews. He immediately brought attention to himself with his strong testimony - he "did great wonders and signs among the people" - Luke says, and in debates no one, "could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke." The fact that his story takes up two full chapters of Acts speaks to how exemplary a figure he was in the first Christian community in Jerusalem. It is peculiar that Stephen not only was active in charity but also in preaching. He shows us that communicating the Gospel and loving the poor are both essential to the life of every believer. There are not the professionals of the Gospel on one side and those of charity on the other. The Gospel is only one and it leads to love personally God and the poor. Stephen’s preaching was supported by ‘signs’ of love that everyone could see and that made his words authoritative and attractive. The very members of Sanhedrin were astounded by the way Stephen lived. The author of Acts does not fail to mention that: "all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel." Stephen’s face reminded people of Moses whose ministry was surrounded by such splendour that the children of Israel could not bear to look at the light shining from his face (Ex 34:29ff). Like Moses, Stephen truly was a witness to God’s love; he was like an angel sent by the Lord, which is what every disciple ought to be. Like his Teacher, Stephen is arrested and judged by the Sanhedrin, and during the trial he is condemned by false accusations. The lives of the disciples always follow the pattern of their Teacher’s. Stephen is sustained during this difficult moment by the strength of the Spirit of the Lord that never abandons anyone, especially in times of trial.

Memory of the Poor