Acts 7:51 - 8:1 / John 6:30-35
Whenever we talk about St. Stephen, the reference is usually to that Stephen in the 1st reading. He is a saint because he was martyred for witnessing to Jesus, and he is often known as the first martyr of the early church.
Martyrdom is usually a bloody affair as well as a painful one, and so it was in Stephen's case, Death by stoning is a painful and slow death.
Stephen could have guessed that he was heading there when he courageously spoke out against the elders, the scribes and the people, calling them stubborn people with pagan hearts and pagan ears, and they were certainly infuriated.
But his death sentence came when he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God's right hand, and he even told his enemies what he saw. That was too much for his enemies and they dragged him to his execution.
But they didn't hear the last of Stephen yet. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and said aloud, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them".
In his last moments and with his last words, Stephen gave his enemies, and he also gives us, a vision of heaven. And he also had his eyes fixed on Jesus.
Stephen was convinced that Jesus is the true bread of God which has come down from heaven to give life to the world.
But the goodness and the pleasures of the life of this world cannot be compared with the life of heaven.
Like Stephen, we too must fix our eyes on heaven as we partake of the Bread of life on earth.