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 only see things and people in their true nature if we take the trouble to really look. The Sanhedrin looked on the face of Stephen, and it seemed like that of an angel. 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 with narrow bias; 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" - roughly equivalent to "Whatever is perceived is understood through the lens of the perceiver."
Stephen, ordained as a Christian deacon on behalf of the poor in the community, spent his talents caring for the needs of the helpless. Yet he was dragged before the court for acting against the beliefs of the people. Important, intelligent people were willing to argue about beliefs when the poor were going hungry. The members of the Sanhedrin looked at a saint and condemned him as a sinner. Where they should have seen the face of an angel they rejected him as the devil incarnate.
When Jesus fed the hungry in the desert, they were concerned only about food for their stomachs. They did not ask about the goodness and generosity of God who cares for them; nor did they inquire about how things should be shared with others. They did not really listen to the words of Jesus, or wonder about their implications for daily life. They simply wanted food. Eventually, John links this multiplication of bread and fish with the Eucharist, Jesus' very own body and blood given for the life of the world.
Jesus distinguishes between bread that grows stale and food that lasts into eternal life. He has fed the people with bread and fish, aware that normal hunger must be satisfied; but as people continued looking for still more to eat, he invites them to look for a kind of food that would satisfy the deepest of our hungers. He came not just to feed people but to give them the spiritual food of God's own presence. This story reminds us that, while we need material things because we are physical and material beings, our searching must go deeper. There is more to life than the satisfaction of our physical needs. We have deeper, spiritual hunger that must be met if we are to live life to the full and be at peace within ourselves.
Jesus himself is the one who offers us the food of eternal life. He can satisfy the deepest hunger of our hearts. Our seeking must ultimately be directed towards God and, as Saint Augustine said, "our hearts cannot rest until they rest in God."