Memory of the Poor

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Memorial of Saint Augustine (†430), Bishop of Hippo (present day in Algeria) and a Doctor of the Church.


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 disciples chosen from the disciples of the diaspora, from the Hellenists. He immediately drew attention to himself because of his strong witness: “He did great wonders and signs among the people,” Luke writes with pleasure. In debates, no one “could…withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.” Two full chapters of Acts tell his story: he was an exemplary disciple in the first community. The members of the Sanhedrin themselves were struck by his missionary activity. Luke does not fail to note that “all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” Stephen brought to mind Moses, whose ministry was surrounded with such splendour that the children of Israel could not look upon his face on account of the light that shone from it (Ex 34:29ff). Like Moses, Stephen was a witness of God’s love, that is, an angel sent by the Lord. And his witness could be read in his face: a mysterious light shone from him that touched the hearts of those who approached him. Indeed, the transmission of the Gospel always occurs through “attraction,” that is, the power and the beauty of an encounter. This is what is asked of the disciples of every age, especially when problems weigh down life and many people are tempted to close in on themselves. In imitation of his Teacher, however, Stephen was also arrested and judged before the Sanhedrin. And, like Jesus, during the trial he was condemned with false accusations. The experiences of the disciples always retrace those of their Teacher. Stephen imitated him. In this difficult moment of his life he was sustained by the power of the Spirit of the Lord, which never abandons any of the disciples, especially in the time of trial.