Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Memorial of Saint Stephen (†1038), king of Hungary. He was converted to the Gospel and promoted the evangelization of his country.


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 3,1-10

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried along. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Peter, and John too, looked straight at him and said, 'Look at us.' He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, 'I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!' Then he took him by the right hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and perplexed at what had happened to him.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This episode shows the first steps of the Christian community. They are the first taken by the disciples without the visible presence of their Teacher. Perhaps the disciples remember Jesus’ first teachings, those reported by Luke, “Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic” (Lk 9:1-3). Sent out two by two, the first time they go out, Peter and John seem to be following Jesus’ instructions to the letter. They go out two by two and they have nothing, not a staff or money. Their love and their shared passion for the Gospel are what it takes for their pastoral ministry to be effective. So it is for every Christian community that wants to follow the Lord Jesus. Peter and John are the first to move, and we always need to continue to follow their steps. They arrive at the “beautiful gate” of the temple and see a man who has been crippled from birth. He is forty years old, and he has perhaps spent most of his life in that spot, reaching out his hand. He was outside the temple. He was kept from entering not only because he could not move, but also because he was sick. There was a sad proverb at that time, which said, “the blind and the lame shall not enter.” Unfortunately, still today, many poor men and women (sometimes even entire countries) are kept from entering, blocked at the doors of the rich, forced to satisfy themselves with crumbs or meagre alms. The crippled man probably was not hoping for anything other than a little money from the two disciples who came before him. He reached out his hand as he does for everyone. As beggars still do today. “Peter looked at him intently,” Luke writes, “as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’” The miracle starts by looking, looking with compassion and mercy. They did not walk by, as many do. The stopped and established a direct relationship. Pope Francis urges, “When you give alms, touch their hands with your hand!” That beggar received much more than alms. Healing starts with the look. And Peter adds, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk,” gives him his right hand, and lifts him up. The text notes that he “raised him up,” almost as if he woke him up from the sleep of sadness and abandonment. Those eyes that met and those hands that clasped each other are the image that the Church of this new millennium must rediscover. It is with the eyes and the hands of Peter and John that we all need to follow the Gospel. And the first friends, the first companions on this journey, are the poor, the weak, and the sick. Our hands and our eyes are inexorably bound to their eyes and hands.