Acts 6:8-15; Ps 119: 23-24;26-27;29-30; Jn 6:22-29
From generations past Wisdom moved the Israelites to devote themselves to meditation upon the Torah. To continue to believe in God despite opposition from powerful princes demanded finding delight in the Law of the Lord and to remember God’s wondrous deeds of mercy. The ways of falsehood gave way to the ways of truth for those who take counsel in the decrees and deeds of the Almighty. Those opposed to Stephen and his preaching had only to provide witnesses that Stephen had spoken blasphemies against Moses and God, against the Torah. Even in the Gospel today the crowds ask Jesus what they must do to perform the works of God still the people seek to do the things that please God. What must we do, they ask, meditate on the Torah? What must we work upon, to what must we devote ourselves, in order to please God? Jesus responds: have faith.
Saint Stephen was a man of heroic faith, filled with grace and power; he worked great wonders and signs among the people. This witness to the Risen Christ was a threat to certain people of power. So they stirred up controversy by providing false witnesses against Saint Stephen. These men accused him of spreading the dangerous message that, Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us. Even when confronted with false accusations Saint Stephen continued to meditate on the mighty works of God in Jesus Christ, on his teaching and on his sacrifice that fulfilled the customs of Moses. The Law and the manna were given during the journey from slavery to freedom. The first Moses promised another, like himself—a prophet who would come to guide the people. The people expected God to provide yet another outpouring of the manna from heaven. Saint Stephen took delight in the way God fulfilled his promise. Meditation on Christ, the New Moses and the New Manna, gave Stephen a peace that came from deep within and showed up on his face. Even when the powerful stared at him with malicious intent, Saint Stephen’s face seemed like that of an angel. Like the angels in heaven Saint Stephen gazed in meditation upon the truth and beauty of God in Christ Jesus.
The crowd looking for Jesus addressed him as Rabbi. The day before they tried to make him King. Their confused search became an opportunity for the New Moses to address their searching hunger. At the very beginning of today’s gospel passage the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes is recalled when the locality is identified, the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Perhaps, the words given thanks are a gentle reference to the Eucharist. Another Eucharistic hint leads us to meditate upon what Jesus means when he distinguishes between, perishable food and food that remains unto life eternal. Jesus again distinguishes between that which is corruptible, the old manna, and that which will remain, the new manna. This time however notice, the Son of Man will provide this food. This future reference invites us to behold the truth and beauty of the cross. This mystery is the seal that the Father has set upon the Sent One. Indeed this is the only work necessary: that we believe in the One lifted up and are nourished by the food that remains for us leading us unto life eternal.