Readings: Acts 6:8-15, Ps. 119:23-24,26-27,29-30, John 6:22-29

“Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” (John 6:26-27)

Today, our First Reading presents the story of Saint Stephen, one of the seven deacons appointed by the early church to solve the problem of unfair food distribution between the Hebrews and Hellenists. Stephen was a gifted deacon, full of the Holy Spirit and blessed with wisdom, deep insight and the ability to see visions. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus warns the crowds seeking Him to labour for food that endures eternal life. Although Stephen was appointed to serve at tables (labour for perishable food), he understood that he had a higher calling. Stephen’s life exemplifies one who laboured for food that endures eternal life. Let us now consider today’s lessons:

1. Win Friends, Not Arguments: Not everyone who argues with you on matters of doctrine is interested in knowing the truth. Over the years, I have engaged in arguments regarding church teachings such as the doctrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary, life after death, devotion to the saints, the number of books in the Bible and so on. I have never won any of these arguments. Be careful with those you argue with. Like these men who argued with Stephen, some persons may use arguments as a mask to unleash their demonic agenda. Don’t try to win every argument. Some people want to be heard. Listen to them. Do not make enemies over matters of doctrine. Otherwise, the only person who gains is the devil.

2. Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil: Isn’t it shocking that people were paid to tell lies against Stephen in the community? Avoid being recruited by the devil and his agents to be used as a weapon of mass destruction. No matter how much you are paid to lie, tell the truth and shame the devil. There is no such thing as a small lie. The eighth commandment says: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.” Whenever you tell a lie about someone, you have killed them. You may never get the chance to take back your words.

3. Be Slow to Believe Rumours/Gossip: The story of Stephen also teaches us the importance of discernment. They say if you want to kill a dog, give it a bad name. Avoid sharing unverified news on social media. Regardless of what you hear about anyone, be slow to conclude; avoid jungle justice physically or mentally (you can develop hatred for someone because of what you heard about them, and these things may not even be true). Gossip is only sweet if you are not the subject of discussion. Remember that Jesus said: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)  

4. Two Types of Food: After feeding the multitude, the disciples of Jesus crossed to the other side of the sea. That night, Jesus walked to them on water. Surprisingly, the people were already waiting for Jesus and his disciples at their destination. Does this explain why churches are packed full, especially in developing countries? I wish we could pursue heaven as much as our earthly comfort. We often fast and pray when we seek things with expiry dates (e.g. job, promotion, business, food, money, etc.).  We hardly do the same when we desire to stop a bad habit or repent of evil. Will what I am praying for right now last for eternity? How often do I receive the food that never perishes (Holy Communion) in a state of grace? How strong is my desire for sainthood? What will I gain if I lose eternity at the end of my life? (Cf. Mark 8:36). As a priest (or man of God), am I doing God’s work to gain heaven or to enjoy a comfortable life on earth?

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, come into my heart, cleanse me of envy of my neighbour and the love of the passing things of this life. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Monday of the 3rd week of Eastertide. Bible Study: Acts 6:8-15, Ps. 119:23-24,26-27,29-30, John 6:22-29).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu