Message From The Assistant Priest
Sunday 14th January 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Christmastide is over and we are 'back to normal'. The life of a Christian though can never really be that normal! Here I would like to share with you the words of Pope Benedict XVI, speaking recently about St Stephen. His life of charity and witness is a great example for us to follow.
"St. Stephen is the most representative of a group of seven companions. Tradition sees in this group the seed of the future ministry of deacons, though we must point out that this name is not present in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen's importance, in any case, is clear by the fact that, in this important book, Luke dedicates two whole chapters to him."
"Luke's account begins by showing a subdivision that took place within the primitive Church of Jerusalem: The neediest among the Hellenists, especially widows devoid of any social support, ran the risk of being neglected in assistance for their daily sustenance. "
"In order to overcome these difficulties, the apostles, reserving for themselves prayer and the ministry of the word as their main task, decided to appoint "seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom" to this duty, that is, to charitable social service. As Luke writes, with this objective and by invitation of the apostles, the disciples elected seven men. We have their names. They are: "Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them" (Acts 6:5-6)."
"What is most important is that, in additional to charitable services, Stephen also carried out a task of evangelization among his fellow countrymen, the so-called "Hellenists." Luke, in fact, stresses the fact that he, "full of grace and power" (Acts 6:8), presents in Jesus' name a new interpretation of Moses and of the very Law of God, rereads the Old Testament in the light of the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This rereading of the Old Testament, a Christological rereading, provokes the reactions of the Jews who interpret his words as blasphemous (Cf. Acts 6:11-14). For this reason, he is sentenced to stoning. And St. Luke transmits to us the saint's last discourse, a synthesis of his preaching."
"In particular, Luke specifies that those who stoned Stephen "laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul" (Acts 7:58), the same one who from persecutor would become a famous Apostle of the Gospel. Thus we can see the wonders of Divine Providence: Saul, hardened adversary of Stephen's vision, after the encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, takes up the Christological interpretation of the Old Testament made by the first martyr, furthers and completes it, and thus becomes the "Apostle to the Gentiles." The law is fulfilled, he teaches, in the cross of Christ. And faith in Christ, communion with the love of Christ, is the true fulfilment of the whole Law. This is the content of Paul's preaching. He thus shows that the God of Abraham becomes the God of all. And all believers in Christ Jesus, as sons of Abraham, become sharers in the promises. Stephen's vision is fulfilled in St. Paul's mission."
"Stephen's story tells us much. For example, it teaches us that we must never disassociate the social commitment of charity from the courageous proclamation of the faith. He was one of the seven entrusted above all with charity. But it was not possible to disassociate charity from proclamation. Thus, with charity, he proclaims Christ crucified, to the point of also accepting martyrdom. This is the first lesson that we can learn from the figure of St. Stephen: Charity and proclamation always go together."
"St. Stephen speaks to us above all of Christ, of Christ crucified and risen as the centre of history and of our life. We can understand that the Cross occupies always a central place in the life of the Church and also in our personal lives. Passion and persecution will never be lacking in the history of the Church."
"But also in our lives the cross, which will never be lacking, becomes a blessing. And, accepting the cross, knowing that it becomes and is a blessing, we learn the joy of the Christian, even in moments of difficulty. The value of the testimony is irreplaceable, as the Gospel leads to him and the Church is nourished on him. St. Stephen teaches us to learn these lessons, he teaches us to love the cross, as it is the way through which Jesus always makes himself present again among us."
Finally, may I take this opportunity to thank you all for the welcome that you have given me in the five months or so that I have been here. I look forward to starting up the house visits and blessings asap!
Fr John Flynn
Minibus driver next week: Brendan Foran
Sick: Mary Lally
Lately Dead: Ita McDermott, John P. Kelly, Sister Monica Bones
Anniversaries: Tim Moloney (18th Jan.), Finbarr and Mary Sheehan, Sister Clavin (Sacred Heart Sisters (Vigil Mass), Tom Kennedy, James and Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Brian Cassidy, Harry Duggan, John Moloney, Beattie Regan Blackburn, Margaret Deignan (10am).
Collection last week: £707.23p Thank you.