Today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (6:8-15) features St. Stephen, and we're told at the end of the reading that “All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him [Stephen] and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” I chose St. Stephen as my confirmation name, precisely because I once had the face of an angel, like Stephen! In actuality, that wasn't the case. I chose Stephen as my confirmation name because he was one of the first deacons (a word coming from Greek meaning servant or even “table-waiter”) and was the first martyr—witness persecuted for the sake of Christ.
The gospel reading today from St. John's Gospel (6:22-29) serves as an interlude after the multiplication of fish and loaves, the feeding of five thousand and an introduction to what is often referred to as the Bread of Life Discourse. Much more will be said later about this great discourse, but important for today is Jesus saying, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” So often, we chase after the food that perishes—power, pride, ego, pleasure, possessions, wealth, prestige, and honor—only to be left unfulfilled and still hungry.
St. John of the Cross describes our souls as having infinitely deep caverns, seeking to be filled in, but because these caverns are infinitely deep, only the infinite can ultimately fill the deepest longings of our hearts. Instead, we attempt to fill these caverns of our souls with finite things—those listed above—only to be frustrated time and again. During this challenging time, God invites us to reorder our priorities: to stop feverishly working for food that perishes and instead seek the food from God which will satisfy the deepest desires of our souls and hearts.