Ask yourself a question:
Who is Jesus praying for in today’s Gospel? Who is he bringing before the Father?
He has already prayed for the 12, and will pray for those who are not of the fold, but in this middle part of the High Priestly prayer, he is praying for us. Just think about that: Jesus stands before the Eternal Father knows each of us and brings us into the Mystery of God. I don’t know about you, but that reality blows my mind.
Jesus who suffered and died, Jesus who rose again and not seated at the right of the Father knows me by name and brings my needs and my life into the eternal mystery of God and this God cares and loves me and he does this for each of us. What more can we ask from God? St Stephen realized this. He was so in awe of what Jesus did for him that nothing would silence him. Even at the moment of his martyrdom, he forgives those who hurt him and entrusts himself into the hands of the Jesus who knew him by name. St Stephen knew Jesus in the very depths of his heart as Lord and Redeemer and even during his suffering he kept his fixed on Jesus knowing that Jesus was right there next to him.
In Jesus’ prayer, He reminds the Father that the 12 are the Father’s gift to him. Do you ever see yourself as the gift of the Father? This is not about ego or pride; the Father has made us gifts to each other and to the world. But, like any gift, if we leave it unwrapped and unopened, it never gets used. Jesus made us, the Church, to have one mission: to tell everyone about the gift of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is good for us to remember why this local parish and the Church in general exists: not for ourselves but to spread the good news. Like Stephen, we need to stand in awe of the mystery of God and witness to it no matter what. This awe then becomes the reason we live the values of the Christian life and bring this values and truths into the world
Is this hard? It is if we try to do it all by ourselves. St Paul will tell us in the second reading next Sunday that we can only say “Jesus is Lord” in the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to daily bring ourselves into the presence of God and, being filled with the Spirit, become the witnesses that we are. As easy as it is to become pessimistic about today’s world and church, as Spirit filled Christians who Jesus knows by name, we must witness to the joy and peace we have from Jesus to the world even in the face of suffering and rejection by the world.
Come Lord Jesus, fill our hearts with your seven fold Spirit and open our ears to your voice. May your Divine and Holy Spirit fill us the zeal of Stephen to give our lives for you. Enflame this parish community and change us to be spirited filled disciples committed to Jesus. Come Lord Jesus, and do not delay, Set us on fire with your love.