St. Stephen


Living Without Blinders

 (Acts 7:51-8:1a; Ps 31; Jn 6:30-35)


Carol, a friend whom I have known for years, shared something with me recently that I did not know and had not noticed about her – she has been living without sight in her left eye since being hit by an elastic at the age of eleven. I was shocked to hear how that has affected her vision and life – often bumping into people she does not notice on that side of the sidewalk as she walks along.

This incident reminded me of the blinders put on horses to minimize the distractions while they are cantering along a road. These blinders also helped avoid them being spooked. This, however, led to a very narrow vision for them, as being blind in one eye did for Carol.

Today the readings show us two roads on which to travel: one with blinders on, and one without. We are invited to live without blinders as we travel.

The road with blinders is obvious in both readings: in Stephen’s encounter with the unbelieving Jews, and Jesus’ encounter with the people after the miracle of the loaves.

On the road with blinders, characterized by a lack of or weak faith, there is a focus on the physical, on material bread, stubbornness, opposition to the Spirit, persecution and killing of the prophets who foretold the coming of Jesus, the righteous one.

Stoning of St. Stephen

Stephen accuses the Jewish council and their associates of being uncircumcised in heart and ears. That means they are not open to, and will resist, anything new. On top of that, he claims they had the law, but did not keep it. They had lost the spirit of the law and had reduced it to rules and regulations about external observances that did not touch the heart or challenge anyone to change. Their reaction to Stephen was blind rage and a refusal to listen to him or to change. To preserve their closed system, they had to get rid of Stephen so they stoned him, as they had crucified Jesus.

Before judging these people too harshly, however, we need to remind ourselves that the same situation exists today, evident especially in religious leaders who know the scriptures and the tenants of their faith yet can also be pedophiles and caught in a consumer lifestyle.

There are so many examples around us of even wealthy, successful and famous people whose lives are still empty, somehow still missing something. St. Augustine is right when he stated our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Ron Rolheiser wrote his most well-known book about this, entitled The Holy Longing.

On the road without blinders, it is just the opposite: faith in Jesus; faith in the Trinity as Father, Jesus and the Spirit, trust in Jesus as the Bread of Life that alone truly satisfies the deepest yearnings of the human heart, and the courage to witness to that truth, even at the cost of one’s life. Think of all the Christians persecuted around the world today, to the point where some claim there are more martyrs today than ever before in history.

For those who have faith and eyes to see, the Eucharist is a sharing in Jesus as the Bread of Life, the food of martyrs. May it help to satisfy our holy longing and empower us to live without blinders, to go out and be bread for the world ourselves.


Updated: April 16, 2024 — 4:13 am

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