The stoning of Stephen, the Church’s first martyr, reminds us that the Cross is not simply the precursor of the Resurrection. The Cross is, and becomes in every generation, the revelation of Christ’s risen life. Stephen glimpsed this at the very moment of his death. “Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open and Jesus standing at God’s right hand.’”
We instinctively shrink from pain and suffering. We cannot comprehend their meaning, and yet, when surrendered to the Cross of Christ, they become Stephen’s vision of heaven’s door thrown open. Our darkness becomes Christ’s light, our struggling hope the revelation of his Spirit.
The Book of Revelation embraced the suffering of the early Church, and spoke with a confidence that reached beyond its darkest fears. Christ, the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, revealed himself as the fulfilment of our restless longing. “Come, let all who are thirsty come; all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free. The one who guarantees these revelations repeats his promise: I shall indeed be with you soon. Amen, come Lord Jesus.”
Sinful humanity longs for a peace that remains undisturbed despite life’s challenges. Such was the unshakeable peace that accompanied Jesus to the Cross and beyond. It could not be shaken because it rested in the Father’s love. This was the love that raised Jesus to new life in his Resurrection. This is the love that brings us peace, that sustains us day by day. “I have made your name known to them, and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them.”
Jesus promised living water to the thirsty. The living water that he promised is our sharing in his own perfect communion with the Father. The prayer that concluded his ministry embraced us in that communion: “Holy Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us as you are in me and I am in you.”
May our lives, through the promised Spirit, witness to that perfect communion of Father and Son.