December 26, 2017
(St. Stephen, Deacon, Martyr)
Jesus warned his disciples of the evil lurking in the hearts of man and how it will impact them as His disciples. He said, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. . . . You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” Mt_10:17-22
As a first example, Stephen, boldly proclaimed Jesus as the promised Messiah from of old. And yet, the Jewish leaders were quick to believe those who falsely accused him. After a lengthy discourse on the Biblical history of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, Stephen accused the leaders themselves for their part in the assassination of Jesus: “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.” Acts_7:51-53
And that boldness in the Truth, cost Stephen, like the Prophets before him, like Jesus himself, his earthly life. With the help of a young, zealous Pharisee-in-training named Saul, who would later become Paul, the people stoned Stephen to death as he gave witness to seeing Jesus in heaven and begged for the forgiveness for their sin, just as Jesus did for His own persecutors.
To the fool, the whole account might have seemed foolish. But to the enlightened, it was Stephen’s journey through the Red Sea to the freedom of paradise. For all of us, we know that death has no hold on us, as we joyfully await our return to the Father; as we boldly proclaim God’s love for all of us; as we humbly pray for the souls of all who are lost, of their own choosing.
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