A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 7:51-8:1a
Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes: "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it." When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and Stephen said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"; and when he said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his execution.
REFLECTION: As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Stephen was full of God's grace and performed many miracles. When brought before the Sanhedrin, his situation did not stop him from proclaiming the truth. And for this, the politicians of the day had him stoned. And Saul is now introduced to us as he lurked around and approved of the stoning. More persecution was to follow.
Jesus has died and has defeated death. However, death is the ultimate sacrifice for any missionary who is spreading the word of God. And as the persecutions persisted, the disciples went to other countries to get away. Obedience to God's word is necessary and no matter where the Spirit takes us, we are reminded that God is always with His children just as He was present with Stephen. Again the same accusations that had been hurled at Jesus were being hurled at Stephen. And Stephen, empowered by the Spirit, answered the Sanhedrin by telling all about God and His Son Jesus. He stressed how God had sent His Son to save His people. The response of the accusers was "gnashing of teeth" and stones thrown at Stephen.
Would we find the same energy, the same conviction, the same enthusiasm as Stephen if we were faced with "gnashing of teeth" and people throwing rocks and insults at us? As we were dying, would we be praying for our killer?
Will we speak up or be silent if someone blasphemes Jesus? Will we defend Jesus if people laugh at Him? Will we be forgiving when rocks are thrown at us? How do we stand up and do the right thing for Jesus?
Praying that we get the courage to do that which is right, always remembering that God is always by our side and that He has our heart. May we pray the Prayer for Priests daily and this month for the virtue of obedience for our priests.