May the Peace of Christ Reign in our heart.
Today’s readings present us with three simple truths that each and everyone of us needs to take to heart.
To understand them we need to situate the first two readings into the life and reality of the early Church.
The first reading from the acts of the Apostles follows right after Stephen’s Martyrdom.
Stephen was one of the first Deacons, and was the first disciple of Jesus to give his life rather than renounce his faith.
His violent death by stoning shocked and frightened the early church.
His death drove home the point that anyone who professed faith in Jesus Christ might be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice.
The experience was so strong that many believers left Jerusalem out of fear.
One of those who left was Philip who we read about in the first reading.
He fled to Jerusalem and went to Samaria and when he arrived there he did not curl up into a ball and hide in fear, rather he began to share his faith in Jesus despite the danger.
His preaching was so convincing that some Samaritans came to believe and be baptized.
When historians look back on stephen’s martyrdom they tell us that his sacrifice served a two very special purposes
It strengthened the commitment and resolve of the early disciples and it help to spread the Gospel to a much larger area which would not have happened if the members of the Church had remained in Jerusalem.
What was at first glance seemed tragic in the long run turned out to benefit the Church.
As Tertullian a early follower of Christ. The Blood of Martyrs is the seed of the Church.
In the Second reading from the first letter of St. Peter the author is writing to console the Church in Asia Minor.
That was Paul’s territory and Peter would not have written them if Paul was still alive.
This leads the scholars the believe that Paul had probably already been beheaded just outside of Rome.
Peter’s letter seems to have been written shortly before his own martyrdom.
It was clear that the Roman Empire want not pleased with this new sect of Jews some called Christians.
For the next couple hundred years there would be decades of peace for the followers of Christ and decades or persecution sometimes severe persecution.
Peter knew as the leader of the Church in Rome his life was in danger, yet he did not run
And in those challenging dangerous times we find him writing the incredible words we heard today.
You see in 1st Peter the author was trying to convey to the Church what it should say and how it should act in a world hostile to the Gospel.
His message can be summed up as
Always be willing to share the reason for your hope.
But do so humbly and gently even if your are being persecuted.
So here are the three truths we need to take to heart
1. The example of Stephen and Philip cause us all to accept the fact that being a follower of Christ bears with it a cost and in some cases a significant cost.
A cost which all of us must recognize and be willing to pay
We may be misunderstood,
we may be ostracized,
we may be persecuted,
we may be passed, over or made fun of,
and sadly in these times many are even called to give their lives rather than renounce their faith.
Every true follower of Christ must accept the cost of discipleship.
2. The second lesson is that sometimes the bad things we endure may really be good just waiting to happen. Once I met a man in the hospital who had suffered a severe heart attack when I
A dear friend I had in washington used to say.
The Devil meant it for bad but God made it good.
Stephen's murder was bad but in the end his sacrifice spread the gospel, grew the church and strengthened the resolve of the other disciples.
There are difficult moments in our own lives and sometimes we have to accept them for what they are and wait until the final word is written on them.
The third truth is simply this Peter reminds us in the second readng that all of us every single one of us is called to share the good news with whomever we can.
Our faith is not simply given to us as, some kind of private consolation or feel good pill
Rather we must be willing to share the reason for our hope with anyone we meet.
Our world is becoming more and more hostile to religion almost any religion.
The world needs to hear the reason for our hope and Peter reminds us that we must do so gently and patiently even when we are persecuted.
No one will ever change a human heart with anger and bitterness…anger and bitterness don’t give peace or hope the only thing they can give is anger and bitterness.
Only humble, patient, gentle and maybe even suffering love, can change a heart and bring it to faith and to hope.
Our world needs faithful loving disciples of Christ to restore it’s hope