The Crown By Way Of The Cross
Wednesday of Week 3 in Eastertide
Acts. 8:1-8 & Jn. 6:35-40
The day Stephen was martyred a terrible persecution started against the Church in Jerusalem. Many Christians left their homes and fled into the country, but the Gospel tells us that the apostles remained along with "some devout people" who buried Stephen and mourned him. It was from this moment that the primitive Church saw the first spread of the faith beyond Jerusalem. It was from this time that the faith was preached and received in all Judaea and Samaria, throughout Asia Minor and Greece, and finally to Rome and the ends of the earth, as Jesus said it would before His Ascension. The Church was already beginning to be truly Catholic.
Ironically, the one man who was determined at the moment of Stephen's death to persecute every follower of Christ, was to become its greatest champion in spreading that faith throughout the Roman Empire. He was Saul of Tarsus, described in these words, "Saul then worked for the total destruction of the Church, he went from house to house arresting both men and women and sending them to prison."
Meanwhile, Philip was among those preaching the Good News, travelling to Samaria where the people welcomed his message with great rejoicing.
The faith was spread by devout men and women who endured much suffering, being uprooted from their homes and facing martyrdom ultimately, so that Christ could be known and loved.
Where did these devout men and women get their help? Today's Gospel has the answer. Jesus says, "Whoever comes to Me, I shall not turn him away." That was His way of saying you can totally rely on Me in your weakness. The Eucharist is to be our inspiration and the source of our strength. Those early Christians knew that on their own they could never have endured so much suffering and achieved the spread of the faith as they did.
Suffering is part of everyone's life and we cannot avoid it, but we can endure it if we rely on Jesus. Just as He helped those who suffered in order to build up the early church, He will help us too. Suffering does have a purpose: He suffered in order to make Heaven available to us, we suffer in order to atone for our sins and work our way to Heaven. This gives meaning to our suffering for it is by following Jesus and accepting our daily crosses that we shall reach Heaven. We can only wear the crown if we have first carried the Cross.
Lord Jesus, may we see the value of suffering, unite ours to those of Yours and so one day reign with You in Heaven.