Friday, December 26, 2008
Stephen, Deacon and Martyr Acts 6:8-15; 7:51-60
The plot against Stephen
Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, "This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us." And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. ...
"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it."
When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died.
Comments: In the countries that were British colonies, today is called Boxing Day. It was the time that employees received their gifts. Throughout Europe the day is celebrated as the Feast of St. Stephen. It was a day of giving alms and giving gifts to those who were not as fortunate.
Stephen was one of the first deacons that was chosen by the apostles to serve the Greek-speaking Christians in Jerusalem. Stephen was a zealous man. He preached of the faith to those who found fault with his preaching. He was brought in front of the council of the synagogue. There were those who wanted to be rid of the young firebrand and brought false charges against him for blasphemy. Mob rule took over and he was taken out and stoned. Stephen was the first martyr of the Christian movement.
Today the day after Christmas has a tendency to look like Black Friday. It would be good to reinstitute the celebration of the Feast of Stephen and share our Christmas with the poor.