The life of the first faithful and their witness in the world give us to know their mettle and courage. They did not have as a norm of conduct that which was easier or more comfortable or more popular, but the complete fulfillment of the will of God. "They paid no attention to the dangers of death (...), nor to their small number, nor to the multitude of their opponents, nor to the power, strength and wisdom of their enemies; for they had greater strength than all that: the power of Him who had died on the Cross and had risen again". Their gaze was fixed on Christ, who gave his life for all men. They did not seek their personal glory or the applause of their fellow citizens. They acted with right intention, with their eyes fixed on their Lord. This is what allows St. Stephen to say at the moment of his martyrdom: Lord, do not hold their sin against them, as we read in today's Mass.
Intention is upright when Christ is the end and motive of our actions. "Purity of intention is nothing but the presence of God: God our Lord is present in all our intentions. How free our heart will be from every earthly impediment, how clean our gaze will be and how supernatural our whole way of acting when Jesus Christ truly reigns in the world of our intimacy and presides over our whole intention."
On the other hand, those who seek the approval of others and the applause of others can end up distorting their own conscience: "what others will say" and not the will of God can then be taken as a criterion for action. Concern for the opinion of others could be transformed into fear of the environment; it would then easily neutralize the apostolic activity of Christians, who "have taken upon themselves an urgent task to accomplish on earth "4: the evangelization of the world.
At times, in order not to be out of tune with the environment, it is easy to begin to be inconsistent with the principles. One falls into the temptation of leaning towards the side where it is easier to collect smiles and compliments, or, in the best of cases, towards the side of mediocrity. This is what happened with the Pharisees. "It (vainglory and cowardice) was she who turned them away from God; she made them seek another theater for their struggles, and this lost them. For as one seeks to please the spectators whom each one has, according to the spectators, such are the struggles that are waged." On the other hand, he who truly seeks Christ must know that his conduct - especially if his life takes place in an unchristian environment - will be unpopular and often fought against.
We must seek first of all to please Christ in our actions. If he still sought to please men, he would not be a servant of Christ. St. Paul himself replied to some of the Corinthian faithful who criticized his apostolate: "As for me, it is a very small thing for me to be judged by you or by any other tribunal, so that I do not even judge myself.... It is the Lord who judges me.
Human judgments are often erroneous and unreliable. Only God can judge our actions and also our intentions. "Among the surprises that await us on the day of judgment, not the least will be the silence that the Lord will keep on those of our actions that have earned us the applause of our peers (...). On the other hand, it may happen that he has inscribed on our assets some actions that have brought us criticism and censure (...). Our judge is the Lord. And it is He whom we have to please". Let us ask ourselves many times a day: am I doing at this moment what I should, am I seeking the glory of God, or my own vanity, to make myself look good? If we are sincere on these occasions, we will have the light to rectify our intention, if necessary, and direct it to the Lord.