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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen’


Acts 7:54-60: Martyrdom

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Andre de Giusto (Manzini): Stoning of Saint Stephen

It is difficult to connect the idea with God as a Good Shepherd to accounts like today’s NoontimeIn this famous scene of Stephen’s martyring, we have much to observe, much to absorb.   On this Sunday when we celebrate good shepherding, let us pause to examine the story and ourselves; and let us reflect.

When the crowd heard Stephen name them as stiff-necked and in opposition to the holy Spirit, they were infuriated and they ground their teeth at him.

How often do we gnash our own teeth and plot our arguments when we hear others make statements we do not believe?

But Stephen, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

How often are we able to put aside our rising anger and look for God and Jesus in the ugliness we see before us?

The crowd covered their ears, cried out against Stephen and rushed toward him.

How often do we rush against witnessing when we hear words that call us to something greater than we are willing to be?

They threw him out of the city and, and began to stone him.

How often are we more intent on silencing someone than listening to their inspiring and heart-felt words?

The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the foot of a young man named Saul.

How often do we gloat in silence while others suffer?

As Stephen fell beneath the stones he cried out, “Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit”.

How often do we stand by and watch as injustice takes place?

Stephen said with his last breath, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”.

How often are we able to forgive those who transgress against us?  How often do we intercede for our enemies before our forgiving and loving God?

When we are in turmoil and pain and we look for the Good Shepherd to lead us to safety, where do we look?  We find good shepherds amidst the mayhem of life, in the fury of human battles, and in the chaos of darkness that seeks to overtake the light.  We find good shepherds tending to the shunned and the belittled, living with the marginalized and forgotten, healing the lonely and broken-hearted.  And once we find our Good Shepherd, this best of all shepherds, we must follow where he leads.  This following may take us along dangerous paths and through storm-tossed seas.  We may want to cover our ears and gnash our teeth as do the witnesses we hear about today.  We may, like Stephen, feel ourselves falling beneath the weight of too many stones thrown in rage against us; and we may see too late the martyrdom that overtakes us.

When we find ourselves backed up against a howling, angry pack . . . we, like Stephen, must also look to God and to Jesus.  And we must give ourselves over to the Spirit.  We will likely be surprised by the miracle in store for us.

This week we will read more stories about the man Saul at whose feet Stephen’s attacked tossed their cloaks.  We will see the miracle of this man’s conversion as he witnessed the martyring of Stephen.  And we will remember that God always pulls goodness out of evil acts; God always calls forth miracles from martyrdom.  For this reason alone . . . we must not be afraid.


A re-post from April 29, 2012.

Image from: http://all-art.org/DICTIONARY_of_Art/a/Andrea_Giusto1.htm

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Acts 6Into the Maelstrom

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

St. Stephen

This reading may strike home for many of us today.  Our work is going well.  So well, in fact, that it is clear that more workers are needed.  The call goes out, workers are vetted and taken in . . . and then the grumbling begins.  Camps and sides form quickly.  The Old Guard feels the need to protect certain traditions and practices against the ideas of the Newcomers.  The newest workers push against the reactions of the old timers.  Protocols and policies change.  There is discontent.  We divide ourselves into factions or sects.  We either protect what we know or we tear down what we believe to be stale.  The story we read today teaches us how to behave when we enter the maelstrom.

Footnotes help us to understand the different factions.  “The Hellenists were not necessarily Jews from the diaspora, but were more probably Palestinian Jews who spoke only Greek.  The Hebrews were Palestinian Jews who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and who may also have spoken Greek.  Both groups belong to the Jerusalem Christian community.  The conflict between them leads to a restructuring of the community that will better serve the community’s needs. The real purpose of the whole episode, however, is to introduce Stephen as a prominent figure in the community whose long speech and martyrdom will be recounted in ch. 7”. (Senior 193)

We notice almost immediately that jealousy brews against Stephen and commentary further helps us to understand the further implications of the conflict we hear today.  “The charges that Stephen depreciated the importance of the temple and the Mosaic law and elevated Jesus to a stature above Moses (6, 13-14) were in fact true.  Before the Sanhedrin, no defense against them was possible.  With Stephen, who thus perceived the fuller implications of the teachings of Jesus, the differences between Judaism and Christianity began to appear.  Luke’s account of Stephen’s martyrdom and its aftermath shows how the major impetus behind the Christian movement passed from Jerusalem, where the temple and law prevailed, to Antioch in Syria, where these influences were less pressing”.  (Senior 193)

Verse 10 tells us all: They could not withstand the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. 

I am thinking of an article I read just last night of a similar conflict in the National Catholic reporter.  Written by Tom Roberts and entitled, “Seismic shifts reshape US Catholicism,” it investigates the inevitability of change that happens when humans form a community.  Liberals find that the change taking place is happening too slowly.  Conservatives believe that the change they see happening must be halted.  Moderates find themselves squeezed between these two inexorable forces.  The conflict will ebb and flow with the natural social, political and fiscal movements and everyone begins to gather their own opinions in defense of a stance.  Tensions ratchet upward.  Wisdom and the Spirit – rather than clearing the air – are shoved into oblivion and the inevitable explosion takes place.  As Christians, rather than succumb to the temptation to splinter into groups we must find a way to come together.

When we read this story in Acts we have the opportunity to look at ourselves to see how we fit into God’s plan for the world today.  When we read the story in Acts we have the chance to examine how we witness to Jesus today.  When we read the story in Acts we are called to examine how we allow Wisdom and the Spirit to influence our daily interactions with others.

When we are called to speak as Stephen speaks we must also be prepared to disappear into the maelstrom that will follow.

When we hear another speak as Stephen speaks we must be prepared to be open to the voice of Wisdom and the power of the Spirit.

When we enter the place where a conflict is raging we are called to witness as Christians must . . . with grace, and mercy, and wisdom . . . and always in the Spirit of God.


A re-post from January 22, 2012.

Image from: http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.193. Print.

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