Grace to you, and Happy Easter!
Are you wondering why I still greet you with Happy Easter though we have passed eight days after Easter (what we call Easter Octave)? It is because, as I have hinted in my reflection on Monday of Easter Octave, every day during the fifty days of Easter is like Easter. As Saint Athanasius suggested, it is like "The Great Sunday."
We return to the story of Saint Stephen, the first Christian Martyr. I started discussing this saint yesterday. Acts of the Apostles Chapter 7:51 is a gripping read about the last words of Stephen before he died. Please read that story. It has many things to teach us about bold witnessing. Let me share a portion of it.
“Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Act 7:55).
Watch the pattern in this story. Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up. Then he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at His right hand.
Many times we fail to see the Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because we look down. Our trials, tribulations, worries, or crosses suck us in, get in our head and pull us face down. Like the women who came to the tomb to anoint Jesus, looking for him in the grave, we tend to assume all hope is lost. We would need the divine words reassuring us, as the angel reassured the women, "He is not here." Meaning our hope isn't in the grave. He has risen. Look up.
Reality is, more often than not, when worries take the better of us and consume us; they prevent us from looking up. We can't seem to put those worries behind us. All our gazes are downward instead of upward. We fail to see, as the Book of Psalms says, that our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 124:8).
When we look up, up to heaven or up to Christ, we can see the glory of the Risen Lord. We can be bold, like Stephen, to announce what we see. We are messengers of the good news. It is when we look up that we see the hope and the future illumined with the bright light of grace.
Though, as always, this may cost us a lot, but it will not take away the hope and joy that we share in the Risen Lord. For instance, Martyrdom, Stephen's martyrdom, isn't the end of the story, but the beginning of a new chapter of grace. So also, situations of trials aren't the end of the story. The witness of the saints is the spice of the earth, bringing life and hope to many who are bowed down and continually looking downward.
So, do you want to have the courage of the apostles to bear witness to the Lord? Look up! Your inspiration is from God. God will inspire you to inspire His people.
I'm praying for you and with you today for the grace to look up when burdened. It is by looking up to the Lord that your salvation comes. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday, Easter Week 3: Act 7:51-8:19; Jn 6:30-35]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.