Tuesday, 3rd Week of Easter
Today’s first reading talks about the martyrdom of Stephen. St. Stephen is the first Christian martyr.
In the earliest days of the Church only those who, like St. Stephen, suffered a martyr’s death were recognized as saints. The reason was that sanctity is conformity to Christ. And one who died as Christ did, a witness to the truth, was seen to be truly holy. When the period of persecution ended and martyrdom became rare, the Church examined its understanding of sanctity. She recognized that being like Christ is the correct criterion of sanctity. But she realized that physical martyrdom was not the only sign of such conformity.
Today we recognize a very large number of people as saints who underwent a natural death. Each of these saints manifested some special characteristics of Christ since no one saint can completely reflect the sanctity of Jesus himself. In St. Vincent de Paul we see the love and care which Jesus had for the poor. In St. Francis of Assisi we see the poverty of Jesus himself. In St. Therese, the Little Flower, we see the simplicity and devotion of Jesus to his Father. In St. Pius X, the Pope who lowered the age for First Communion from twelve to seven years old, we see the love which Jesus had for little children.
Each one of us is called to be a saint. We may never be canonized by the Church, but our basic vocation in life is to live as Jesus did. It is said that the aim of the Church is nothing less than to produce men and women who have in them the reflection of Jesus Christ himself. A saint has been defined as “someone in whom Christ lives again.” And, as someone said, “A Christian is: a mind through which Christ thinks; a voice through which Christ speaks; a heart through which Christ loves; a hand through which Christ helps.”
More important than determining the specific manner in which we will be like Jesus is to draw upon the most important source for becoming like Jesus, and that is the Holy Eucharist. Jesus in today’s gospel reading proclaims, “I am the bread of life.” The Lord wishes to give us a share in his own life. And that is what sanctity – or being a saint – is all about.
My dear friends, may we all become person in whom Christ lives again.