1st Reading – Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Last week we heard of the ordination of seven men as “assistants”: those who are to serve. In the intervening chapter (chapter 7) which comes between last week’s reading and this one, one of these assistants, Stephen by name, is martyred. The charges against him resemble those leveled against Jesus: (1) he has uttered blasphemies against Moses and God; (2) he has spoken against the Jerusalem temple and the Law; (3) he has maintained that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the temple and change Mosaic customs.
In his speech to the Sanhedrin, the longest speech in the book of Acts, Stephen doesn’t directly answer the charges against him but instead delivers a sermon in which the history of Israel from Abraham to Solomon is recast in terms of opposition to Jesus – the history of the Jewish people has always been one of opposition to God’s appointed guides and of idolatry. The result is that Stephen is dragged outside the city and stoned; with those who are doing the stoning having their garments watched by a young Pharisee named Saul.
Thus began the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem; this leads to the spread of the Word from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria under the influence of the Hellenists. Although the twelve are still the nerve center of Christianity in Jerusalem, others are now also spreading the Word. Today we hear the story of Philip, another of the seven assistants.
2nd Reading – 1 Peter 3:15-18
Having heard in the introduction to our first reading about the start of the persecutions of the Christian Church, we now hear Saint Peter tell us the Christian approach to persecution.
Gospel – John 14:15-21
Our reading for today is a continuation of our gospel reading for last week. We are at the Last Supper, just after Judas has left and Jesus has told the remaining eleven that He must soon depart too.