Reading 1: Acts 6:1-7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
Gospel: John 6:16-21
Today’s first reading takes place in Jerusalem and immediately mentions the relationship of the “native” Hebrews (which included the apostles) and “outsider” Hellenists. The reason the two groups were in the same place is because the Jewish Hellenists (of Greek origin) were moving to Jerusalem like many Jewish Gentiles at the time, to return to Israel from where the Messiah would one day hail.
It is brought to the Apostles attention by a group of Hellenists that they had been neglecting to give the widows of the Hellenist community the daily food rations. The newly converted followers of the apostles would have led the ministry to aid the impoverished in their homeland. They would have served those in need: those with no food, no financial support and no where to turn. This certainly should have included widows of a minority group like the Greek-speaking Hellenists, so it was shocking they hadn’t received proper support from their native brothers and sisters.
After realizing their mistake the Apostles rightfully take on the action of ordaining seven “Deacons” of the early church to serve their community and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Of those chosen was Stephen, a man who’s name in Greek origin, Stephanos, literally means “crown”, showing that the Lord, through the apostles, has bestowed a high place in the church for those who do his work. Though it may seem unpleasant or unimportant in the moment, service to the forgotten ones is truly the most dignifying work we can do for God the Father and the spreading of Christianity, and Stephen is an exemplary role model of that service.
It is so common today, for us to draw lines of “native” and “non-native”, creating boundaries, whether mentally or physically, between those who are differ from us either culturally, spiritually or ethnically. God desires us to look into the hearts of those who come from other places and backgrounds and to search for understanding and common ground; to take up our crosses and put on the crown of Christ’s dignity of love for those around us. But we must not be mistaken and think that we can do this alone. We must realize that only through God and prayer can we truly be humble servants of the Lord’s will. This is why Stephen was chosen, because it’s said he was “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit”, traits that would allow him to be a leader for the church.
Psalm 33:5 does a great job reaffirming this call to faith, to truly form our actions in the way God intended them, saying, “He loves uprightness and justice; the faithful love of Yahweh fills the earth”. The Psalm is exclaiming that only through a faith filled life can we build up a conscience of spirituality that allows us to react to God’s plan and seek out true justice. At the end of your day today take time to reflect where you neglected ‘the outsiders’ in our modern day Jerusalem. We must all pray for God’s assistance in this, so that we can find ways to follow in Jesus’ perfect model on the pathway of acceptance and mercy.