Scripture: Lectionary 274. April 16. Acts 7:51-8:1. Psalm 31:3-4.6-126.96.36.199. John 6:30-35:
We learn of Stephen, one of the first named as deacon, who is for us a primary model and mentor for witnessing to the Good News of Jesus, to the Hebrew Scriptures, and the history of salvation in the longest speech or proclamation recorded in the New Testament. All we know about him is given to us in the Acts of the Apostles in chapters 6-8. It is his martyrdom which is the same word used for witnessing by Luke that gives us encouragement in the smaller trials of life that we endure compared to his. He is always described as a man of faith under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit in what he does and says. “Being filled with grace and the Holy Spirit, Stephen had worked miracles and great signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8). In chapter seven we will hear his entire speech and proclamation based on the entire Bible and salvation history. He will select from the Torah and the Prophets and mention some of the heroes and saints of the Old Testament showing how they are types of the Lord Jesus.
Stephen was a follower of Christianity who lived his dedicated to the role of a deacon to the fullest and who emphasized the importance of Jesus in the history of salvation for the forgiveness of sins.
His dramatic death leads to the introduction of someone named Saul who will be converted to Christianity and become the Apostle to the Gentiles. Stephen’s death undoubtedly had a great influence on Paul in his own spiritual life and its journey which also led to martyrdom. Stephen shows his love for all sinners with his dying testimony: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” With this loud prayer he expired and became known to us as the Proto-Martyr, the first and model martyr. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.