· At the General Audience the Pope talks about St Stephen's prayer ·
God never tires of reaching out to man; even if he often encounters an attitude of misunderstanding and diffidence, if not “obstinate opposition”, as the Holy Father said at the General Audience of Wednesday, 2 May, in St Peter’s Square. He was speaking of the witness and prayer of St Stephen, one of the seven deacons chosen by the Apostles to carry out the service of charity to the needy.
Referring to the discourse that the first Christian Martyr addressed to the Sanhedrin, the Pope stressed that he “reinterprets the whole of the biblical narrative, the itinerary contained in Sacred Scripture, to show that it leads to the 'place' of the definitive presence of God, which is Jesus Christ, and in particular his Passion, death and Resurrection”. Stephen also interprets in this perspective his being as a disciple of Jesus, even to the point of choosing martyrdom, which thus becomes “the fulfilment of his life and his message”.
In the Protomartyr's opinion therefore, “the new temple in which God dwells is his Son, who has put on human flesh, is the humanity of Christ, the Risen One who gathers his people and unites them in the sacrament of his Body and his Blood”. In him “God and man, God and the world are really in contact”. In fact Jesus “takes upon himself the whole burden of human sin to bring it into the love of God and to 'consummate it' in this love”.
Drawing close to the Cross thus means “entering this transformation” as Stephen himself did, becoming by his martyrdom “one with Christ”. His witness shows believers that it was in his relationship with God himself that the Saint “found the strength to confront his persecutors, even to the point of giving himself”. Our prayers too – the Holy Father recommended in this regard - “must be nourished by listening to the word of God, in communion with Jesus and with his Church”.
Among the vicissitudes of Stephen, the vision of the relationship of love between God and man, in which the figure and mission of Jesus is foretold, stands out in particular. Where is the temple”, Benedict XVI pointed out, “in which the presence of God the Father became so close that it entered our human flesh to bring us to God, to open the gates of heaven to us?”. Consequently our prayers “must be a contemplation of Jesus at God's right hand, of Jesus as the Lord of our, of my, daily life”. For in him alone “can we too address God, make real contact with God with the trust and abandonment of children speaking to a Father who loves them infinitely”.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 22, 2019
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