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The Holy Spirit for St Stephen, and for us

Acts 6:8-15
Events began to unfold around Stephen which mirrored the Lord’s Passion and death; false accusations, charges of blasphemy and being hauled before the Sanhedrin.  Like Christ in life, like Christ in death, Stephen becomes the first martyr.  And his witness of martyrdom speaks to every generation of believers, until the end of time.
Luke highlights how Stephen was a man full of grace, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit.  He was God-centred, not self-centred.  Where did this grace and power come from?
Some of the answer can be found in the opening verses of Chapter 6: Stephen was selected by members of his community because of his apparent virtues and was presented, along with six others for the blessing of the apostles.
Luke informs us that the apostles “prayed and laid their hands upon them” (v. 6).  This was the customary manner in the early Church by which people were invested with the Holy Spirit to carry out special assignments and work.  This must have been the source of Stephen’s Spirit-filled life.
We too can be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Without the Spirit we labour in vain as we seek to serve the Lord by the power of our own strength and abilities.  Don’t be afraid to seek out the blessing of being prayed over to receive a fresh outpouring of the Spirit.
Bishops, priests and deacons can make this prayer, but so can fellow believers – when two or three gather in Jesus’s name.
We are called to be Spirit-filled Christians, men and women who live not for ourselves but for others, not by our own strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, fill me with your Spirit; fill me with your joy, hope and love that I many be an authentic witness of the Gospel.

Guard against self-interest

Jesus – “Salvation is found in no one else . . .
Acts  4: 1–12
For the Sadducees life after death was a revolutionary and subversive idea that threatened their position.  Their difficulty was that, “People who believe that their God is about to make a new world, and that those who die in loyalty to him in the meantime will rise again and share gloriously in it, are far more likely to lose respect for a wealthy aristocracy than people who think that this life, this world and this age are the only ones there will ever be . . .” (Tom Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God).
The Sadducees held much power; their interest was not in the word of God, but in the maintenance of the status quo, because this was of most benefit to them.  The Sadducees wanted to preserve their own interests.
To guard against the same temptation, we can harness the power of prayer.  Perfect prayer is all love.  The key to protecting ourselves from becoming like the Sadducees is to avoid self-interest in the first place, to focus our attention on love.
Oh my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love.  I seek to love my neighbour as myself for the love of you.  I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon for all whom I have injured.  Amen.

Our Father

Matthew 6:7–15
Our Father by Jesus on sunrise
We address God as ‘Father’ – as ‘Abba’ in Aramaic.  This was unthinkable, even abhorrent, for a faithful Jew in Jesus’s day.
Only Jesus could cross the threshold of divne holiness, for by his cross and resurrection he made purification for our sins and brought us into the Father’s presence.
How comforting and consoling are these words from the writer of the Hebrews, in which Christ says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me” (2:13).
The Holy Spirit works to stretch and expand our hearts and minds so that they can grasp the amazing truth that we are children of the Father, sons and daughters of the Living God.
We who call God ‘Our Father’ because he is Our Father in heaven.  We don’t approach him lightly or nonchalantly or irreverently but in profound wonder that we are privileged to know God, the Creator, as a father who loves and cares for us.
”Our awareness of our status as slaves would make us sink into the ground and our earthly condition would dissolve into dust, if the authority of our Father himself and the Spirit of his Son had not impelled us to this cry, “Abba Father!"
‘When would a mortal dare call God “Father” if our innermost being were not animated by power from on high?’ (St Peter Chrysologus)


Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18
In order that we may better love the Lord our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we practise self-denial and acts of penance, and strive to reform our lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In the Bible the heart is understood as the apex or very essence of our being, and it is the heart that needs renewing.
As St Benedict Joseph Labre once said, “To love god you need three hearts: a heart of fire for him, a warm heart towards our neighbour and a heart of bronze towards ourselves."
It is always springtime in the heart that loves God. (St John Vianney).

The importance of listening – Martha or Mary?

Luke 10:38-42
Mary did what Martha didn’t — she made time.
We know in our own hearts that the decision to find time to pray is often harder than the decision to attend to work, write another email, make a telephone call etc . . .
Today we put out into the deep in expectation of encountering the Lord in a new way in prayer.  Today we rejoice in the pearl of great price, the ‘one thing’ that is needed, which is to be still and know that God is God.
“Prayer means launching out of the heart towards God; it means lifting ones’s eyes, quite simply to heaven, a cry of grateful love from the crest of joy or the trough of despair; it is a vast, supernatural force that opens out my heart and binds me close to Jesus.” Ste Thérèse of Lisieux.

Three Ways to Rest

There is an entry on the You Version blog:
That describes ways to rest, ways to stop doing stuff because doing stuff makes you feel as if you’re getting somewhere.
You might achieve something with the doing, but not as much or as happily if you’ve taken time to be close to Jesus first.
And I like the idea of giving your worries to Our Lord, taking time to do so, making it a quiet time and perhaps meditating with Jesus in your heart as you do so.
I shall try it.
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