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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

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 8,1b-8

There were some devout people, however, who buried Stephen and made great mourning for him. Saul then began doing great harm to the church; he went from house to house arresting both men and women and sending them to prison. Once they had scattered, they went from place to place preaching the good news. And Philip went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people unanimously welcomed the message Philip preached, because they had heard of the miracles he worked and because they saw them for themselves. For unclean spirits came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The stoning of Stephen marks an important milestone in the history of the early Christian community. Jesus himself had said, "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). And a few centuries later, a wise Christian, Tertullian, will say, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." In effect, the ferocious stoning of Stephen was not just targeted at him: it unleashed the persecution of the first followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Luke writes that on "that day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem." The first persecution erupts in the "birthplace" of the Christian community, as if to indicate the itinerary that must be followed by all of Jesus’ disciples. Luke emphasizes that some were able to stay in Jerusalem, while many others were forced to flee and headed to Antioch, where they began to preach the Gospel of Jesus. We should emphasize the fact that nothing can stop Christian preaching, not even persecution. And that is not all. Persecution became an opportunity to spread the Gospel even further. That is to say that the missionary dimension is inherent in Christian spirituality: the disciple, because he or she is a disciple, also becomes an apostle. Indeed, the quality of being a disciple, that is, of a radical following, leads at last to being a truly effective apostle. Consequently, at the beginning of this new millennium it is urgent for us to rediscover the "martyr’s" dimension of Christianity, that is, for us to learn to be disciples of the Gospel "to the letter," as Francis of Assisi would say and Pope Francis repeats, which fosters a missionary urgency to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Martyrdom is nothing other than testifying to Jesus’ love to the end, even at the cost of our blood. In this sense, Christian love leads to "giving one’s life" for the Gospel and for one’s brothers and sisters, especially the poorest. This is the witness of Philip, another of the seven deacons. He - an example of many other disciples of that first Church whose names we do not know - brought preaching to the region of Samaria, where new wonders were worked among the people. The Word of God grew in the hearts of many and the community grew with them. It became a festival for the entire city. That is also what the Church is called to due in this age.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets