Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen as it was called, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, "This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us." And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Though princes sit plotting against me
I ponder on your statutes.
Your will is my delight;
your statutes are my counsellors. (R./)
I declared my ways and you answered:
teach me your statutes.
Make me grasp the way of your precepts
and I will muse on your wonders. (R./)
Keep me from the way of error
and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of truth
with your decrees before me. (R./)
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "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, which the Son of Man will give you. or it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
We can see more in people if we take the trouble to really look beneath the surface. Looking on the face of Stephen, the Sanhedrin saw it glowing, like the face of an angel. In the Gospel Jesus tells the crowd: “You are not looking for me because you have seen signs but because you have eaten your fill of the loaves.” Each of us looks at the world in different ways: with wide interest or through a narrow lens; with a large heart, seeing signs of goodness everywhere, or with a narrow focus on our personal concerns; with faith that accepts even miracles or with pessimism that sees only the worst in things. As the latin tag has it, Quidquid percipitur, ad modum recipientis percipitur (Whatever is received is understood through the lens of the receiver.)
As a zealous disciple, Stephen was chosen as a deacon to work on behalf of the poor in the community. He spent his time and energy caring for the needy but he also did some preaching of the Christian faith. For this he was dragged before the Sanhedrin as an enemy of the Jewish religion. The priestly caste felt it worthwhile to argue about the status of the Temple as the House of God, while the poor were going hungry. The Sanhedrin members looked at a saint and condemned him as a sinner. Instead of recognising the face of a saint they rejected him as the devil incarnate.
When Jesus fed the hungry people in the desert, they were concerned only about their immediate needs. They did not trust the goodness of God who cares for them; nor did they think of sharing with others whatever food they had. They did not listen deeply to the Lord’s words, to discover their implications for daily life. Our church links the multiplication of bread and fish with the gift of the Eucharist, Jesus’ very own body and blood given for the life of the world.
There is a great difference between ordinary bread with a short shelf-life that grows stale and another food that leads to eternal life. Jesus fed the people with bread and fish, aware that normal hunger must be satisfied. Then, as people continued looking for still more to eat, he invited them to look for what would feed their deeper hunger. He gave them more than bread, nourishing them with God’s own presence. We need material food because we are material beings, but our search must go deeper. There is more to life than satisfying our physical desires. There is a deeper hunger that must be met if we are to live life to the full and be fully at peace.
Jesus offers us the spiritual food that can satisfy the hunger of our hearts. Our deepest seeking is leading us towards God for as St Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts can never be at rest until they rest in You.”