In today’s First Reading St. Stephen, the first martyr, is speaking in a language that his persecutors understand. It is a message that comes with the power of the Holy Spirit, who’s coming on Pentecost to energize the budding Church for her mission that we’ll celebrate in a special way next week. He bears Our Lord’s own words: “Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Those words brought death to Jesus as well, because they were a testimony that Our Lord was the Messiah. Stephen’s testimony went to martyrdom, and that martyrdom bore fruit: Saul became the great apostle St. Paul.
In today’s Gospel Our Lord prays for those who will believe in him through the words of his disciples. Like St. Stephen, we must bear the word of Jesus so that others can believe. It means giving witness, it means taking the blows of ridicule, misunderstanding, contempt. We may not suffer a physical martyrdom, but there may be a concerted character assassination, ridicule, and scorn. Through Jesus’ word, he prays that we will be united as he is united to his heavenly Father. Through Jesus’ word, he prays that we will share the same glory that his heavenly Father has given him, and through that unity and glory he prays that the world will know that he was sent by his heavenly Father and that the heavenly Father loves them as much as he loves Jesus.
In today’s Second Reading John reminds us that Jesus’ Word is above all an invitation to enjoy eternal life. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”—the Church, that bride described by St. John—in the power of the Holy Spirit extends that invitation that Christ may come into her life and the life of all believers. Let the hearer say, “Come.”—he wants that invitation to be repeated on our lips as well. He wants Christ to come into our lives, and to come into the lives of those to whom we give witness. That invitation is to satisfy a deep need in man that mankind can satisfy in no other way: “Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.” That life-giving water is grace, the love and life of God, which unites us to God and to each other and lets the glory of God shine within us.
St. Irenaeus described the glory of God as being man truly living his life: Gloria Dei vivens homo. Man glorifies God by living his life in truth and love to the maximum degree, bolstered by the grace and love of God. Not just passing things, so many toys that are new, then boring, then discarded—money, career, pleasure, power. Not just surviving in an evil and troubled world. Living the Gospel in all its fullness. Because eternal life started in our hearts the day of our baptism and wants to grow, to take hold of us and transform us. That growth is made possible by Christ in the power of his Spirit. His word must become our word. His Spirit must become our Spirit, and through faith and prayer and sacrifice we make his words our own, and his Spirit fills us and transforms us.
Let’s not be afraid to let Christ’s word shape our lives, to let his Spirit transform us. It is a Spirit of love, unity and forgiveness. When love is not there, when unity is not there, when forgiveness is not there, true life is stifled. Let’s ask Jesus to “Come” just as the Holy Spirit and the Church do in today’s Second Reading. Speak to Our Lord heart to heart. Ask him to fill your heart with his Spirit, and offer to him one thing in your life, something big, something small to show your welcome to his Spirit and grace. One act of charity, one act of forgiveness.
You’ll be surprised how quickly something comes to mind, and how your reaction will be, but that something will point out the direction that Christ’s word and his Spirit wants to take you. Make amends with that someone in your life who hurt you, or ask for forgiveness for hurting someone. Visit with someone in your family or an old friend that you haven’t spoken with in a long time. Help the poor or the sick. By doing this, Jesus’ words will come true in your life: “By this they will know that you are my disciples: by your love for one another.”
Readings: Acts 7:55–60; Psalm 97:1–2, 6–7, 9; Revelation 22:12–14, 16–17, 20; John 17:20–26. See also 7th Week of Easter, Thursday, St. Stephen, First Martyr, and 3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday (2).