Saturday, December 29, 2012

More on St. Stephen and deacons as evangelists

In his catechesis for his Wednesday Audience on the day after the Nativity of the Lord, Pope Benedict said, "On St. Stephen’s Day, we are called to fix our gaze on the Son of God, who in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas we contemplate in the mystery of His Incarnation."

He also noted, "The book of Acts presents [Stephen] as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 6.8 to 10, 7.55); in him the full promise of Jesus recounted in today's Gospel passage is fulfilled, which is that believers who are called to bear witness in difficult and dangerous circumstances will not be abandoned or left defenseless: the Spirit of God will speak to them (cf. Mt 10:20). The deacon Stephen, in fact, worked, spoke and died animated by the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to the love of Christ to the point of extreme sacrifice."

St. Stephen fixes his gaze- St. Stephen's Church Cleveland, Ohio

In his remarks, the Holy Father reminded us, "In Baptism and Confirmation, with the precious gift of faith nourished by the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist, Jesus Christ has bound us to Him and wants to continue in us, through the action of the Holy Spirit, his work of salvation that redeems, enhances, elevates and leads all to fulfillment. Allowing ourselves be drawn by Christ, like St. Stephen, means opening our lives to the light that calls, directs and makes us walk the path of good, the path of humanity according to God’s loving plan."

"Finally," the Pontiff remarked, "St. Stephen is a model for all those who want to serve the new evangelization. He shows that the novelty of proclamation does not primarily consist in the use of original methods or techniques, which certainly have their uses, but in being filled with the Holy Spirit and allowing ourselves to be guided by Him. The novelty of proclamation lies in immersing ourselves deeply in the mystery of Christ, the assimilation of His Word and of His presence in the Eucharist, so that He Himself, the living Jesus, can act and speak through His envoy. In essence, the evangelizer becomes able to bring Christ to others effectively when he lives of Christ, when the newness of the Gospel manifests itself in his own life" (underlining and italicizing emphasis mine).

This is notable, I point out once again, because apart from the intervention of Bishop Steven Croft, Anglican bishop of Sheffield, England, there was no mention made of deacons in the context of the New Evangelization at the recent Synod convened by the Holy Father. The witness of St. Stephen and St. Philip in the Acts of the Apostles show us that from the Church's beginning deacons have been and now are evangelists, performing the diakonia of veritas in caritate (i.e., truth in love).

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