Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI on St. Stephen

At today's Wednesday audience, held inside in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, instead of on the piazza, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his weekly catechesis to my baptismal patron, who is also a beacon for all deacons, St. Stephen.
"St. Stephen is the most representative figure of a group of seven companions, who concerned themselves with charitably serving the needs of members of the Christian community, whether of Jewish or of Greek origin.

"Tradition sees in this group the origins of the future ministry of deacons,"
who were set apart by the Apostles themselves by the laying on of hands, a very scriptural gesture, originating in the Old Testament and, the Holy Father says, "has above all the significance of transmitting an important task".

"That this was an important action, to be undertaken following due discernment, becomes clear from a reading of the First Letter of Paul to Timothy: 'Do not be hasty in laying on of hands, nor participate in another man's sins'."

"Apart from his charitable service, Stephen also carried out evangelizing activity among his countrymen, the so-called 'Hellenists'."
It was to his fellow Greek-speaking Jews that, in the words of Benedict "he reread the Old Testament in the light of the announcement, death and resurrection of Jesus". His opening the Scripture to them "provoked the reaction of the Jews who perceived his words as blasphemy", which provoked them to violence, urged on by Saul of Tarsus, and led to Stephen's death.

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