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April 15, 2018 - Being "Saints Next Door"

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

Scripture Readings

I have always wondered about today’s first reading. The story tells about St. Stephen and how his face “was like the face of an angel.”  What was it about Stephen that made his appearance so striking? As disciples we are also called to follow Jesus, so that when people see us the grace of God shines through for all to see.

In the reading from Acts, St. Stephen is “working great wonders and signs among the people”.  The wisdom of the Spirit was so evident in Stephen that the authorities were unable to debate his preaching- they found the power within Stephen to be both amazing but also frightening. Although they tried to bring false witness against him, even the people in the Sanhedrin saw a holiness that emanated from his presence.

In the gospel reading, Jesus has multiplied the loaves to feed the multitude, and He has also walked on water.  The crowds follow after Him seeking to know about these wonders.  Jesus instructs them that the miracles are not what they should seek, but to do the work of God.  Jesus further explains that the work of God is that “you believe in the one he sent.”  Faith in Jesus does not just mean believing.  As His disciples Jesus calls us to follow Him, just as his disciples followed Him when He called them by name. As a disciple He calls us to put our faith into action by imitating Him as we live our lives with love.  Jesus shows us the way, and He gives us the guidelines to do this through his teaching- particularly through the Sermon on the Mount.

Pope Francis recently has shared his new apostolic exhortation “Gaudate et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad). These are the exact words that Jesus speaks during the Sermon on the Mount.  In this exhortation, Pope Francis gives some specific ways that we can live as disciples of Christ- living out our holiness in everyday living.  One phrase in particular resonated with me.  Pope Francis talks about how we are called to be “saints next door.” Although we can look to the saints that have gone before us for inspiration, our call to holiness is best done by living our lives (by being who we are) in the way that God has called us to be.   This means living our daily lives in loving ways.  Pope Francis explains we are called to “bear witness” in everything we do. When we live our lives in this way, those around us will be able to recognize God’s Spirit shining through.   

This witness is something that allows us to be the “saints next door” to our family, friends, neighbors, fellow parishioners and those we encounter in the world. Pope Francis further instructs us to “be kind” and to use the Beatitudes as the “roadmap for holiness.”  He particularly stresses the need for mercy in all that we do and say.

In the exhortation, Pope Francis stresses that we cannot do this on our own, and it is only with the grace of God alive in us that we can accomplish this “holiness.”  Our “work” is to have faith in Jesus, allow His Spirit to be alive within us, and then live as who we are created to be right where we are! It is in the small daily activities of our lives that we can grow in our holiness as we find our “mission” to be Christ to others.  God calls all people to holiness, so through His grace He provides us with others who are “saints next door.” Through their witness they help us grow in our faith by their love and support. 

 St. Stephen was on fire with God’s Spirit and it was evident for all to see.  May we be open to God’s Spirit in our lives and with His grace may each of us become “saints next door,” so we can live heaven on earth as the communion of saints.

Loving Father, Your Son Jesus calls us to follow Him and become His disciples.  Through the power of Your Spirit help us to recognize the holiness in our daily living as we seek to do your will and become who you created us to be.  May our lives of mercy and love be beacons for all to see, so all may know You and give you the glory. We pray this through Christ our LORD. Amen.

- Marylynn Herchline