Pope: Prayer & communion with Jesus gives strength to face persecution

May 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Church, newsletter-lead, Vatican, World

Vatican City, May 02, 2012: Benedict XVI speaks of the witness and the prayer of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Our prayer must be the contemplation of Jesus as “Lord of our, of my daily existence.” In Him “we may be able to turn to God with the trust and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves us infinitely.”

Nourished by Scripture and communion with Jesus and his Church, prayer enables one to face life’s difficulties and even persecution. This is the teaching that comes from “the witness and prayer” of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, which Benedict XVI today offered 40 thousand people in St. Peter’s Square for the general audience.

Stephen, “one of the seven chosen for the service of charity”, the Pope recalled, was brought to court, before the Sanhedrin, accused of having said that Jesus would destroy the temple of Jerusalem, and subverted the customs handed down by Moses. Jesus had actually spoken of the destruction of the temple, which he would rebuild in three days, but “he was speaking of his body.”

“Stephen’s discourse before the court, the longest of the Acts of the Apostles develops from this prophecy of Jesus, who is the new temple, who inaugurates the new cult and replaces the ancient sacrifices with the offering of himself on Cross. Stephen wants to show how unfounded the accusation made against him of having subverted the Law of Moses and illustrates his vision of the history of salvation, the covenant between God and man. He thus re-reads the biblical narrative, the itinerary contained in the Holy Scripture, to show that it leads to the “place” the ultimate presence of God, which is Jesus Christ, especially His Passion, Death and Resurrection. In this perspective, Stephen also reads his being a disciple of Jesus, following him to martyrdom. ”

His meditation on Sacred Scripture allows Stephen to understand his present reality. “In his speech Stephen begins with the call of Abraham, a pilgrim to the land indicated by God and which was only a promise; he then passes to Joseph sold by his brothers, but assisted and freed by God, to arrive at Moses, who becomes an instrument of God to free his people, but who also on several occasions encounters the rejection of his own people. In these events narrated in Sacred Scripture, which Stephen religiously listens to, God, who never tires of encountering man despite often finding stubborn opposition, always emerges.”

“In all this he sees a foreshadowing of the story of Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, who – like the ancient Fathers – encounters obstacles, rejection and death.” In his meditation on the action of God in salvation history, Stephen highlights the perennial temptation to reject God and his action and says that “Jesus is the Just announced by the prophets; in Jesus, God himself is present in such a unique and definitive way: Jesus is the true place of worship.”

Stephen, therefore, does not deny the importance of the temple, “but stresses that God does not dwell in houses made by human hands. The new temple in which God dwells is his Son, who took on human flesh, it is the humanity of Christ, the Risen One who gathers the people and unites them in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood.”

“The life and discourse of Stephen is suddenly interrupted by his stoning, but his very martyrdom is the fulfillment of his life and his message: he becomes one with Christ.” Before he died, he asks for Jesus to receive his spirit, and like Jesus asks God “not to hold this sin” against those who stoned him.

The testimony of St. Stephen offers us some indications to our prayer and our lives. The first is that St. Stephen drew the strength to face his persecutors to the point of the gift of himself “from his relationship with God” and “meditation on the history of salvation, from seeing the action of God, which in Jesus Christ came to the summit.” So “our prayer must be nourished by listening to the Word of God.”

The second is that the martyr “sees foreshadowed, in the history of the relationship of love between God and man, the figure and mission of Jesus He – the Son of God – is a temple” not made with human hands ” where the presence of God the Father came so close as to take on our flesh to bring us to God, to open up the gates of Heaven to us. Our prayer, then, must be the contemplation of Jesus at the right hand of God, of Jesus as Lord of our, of my daily, existence. In him, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we too can turn to God – concluded the Pope – with the trust and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves them infinitely “.

– asianews

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