May 1, 2017
by Tom Quinn
Creighton University's School of Medicine
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 273

Acts 6:8-15
Psalms 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30
John 6:22-29

Daily Easter Prayer

Celebrating Easter Home

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Finding Hope in the Easter Season

Letting Myself Be Reborn

Reading one, Stephen’s Arrest

Stephen was a young man who had been singled out to be one of the first Deacons. He was so-honored because he was a person who was filled with wisdom, the Spirit, grace, and power. He was entrusted by the community with the organization of charitable activities that would more equitably aid the poor, especially the Greek-speaking widows who felt that they were not being treated well.  Stephen was not only charitable, but was an excellent preacher and debater.  He was “working great signs and miracles” among the people.  He was soon noticed by the members of a local synagogue which drew its members from many countries; some were former slaves.  Stephen’s preaching extolled the words of Jesus in whom he had powerful and unshakable faith.  Many, including Saul, the Pharisee who was later to be known to us as Paul, were enraged at the apparent blasphemy that this man spoke.  The leaders of the synagogue stirred up the people to the point that they caused Stephen to be accosted, seized, and brought before the Sanhedrin. There he was accused of blasphemy against Moses and God.  They said that Stephen believed that Jesus would “destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”  We are left with some hope for Stephen because, as he heard the charges leveled against him, the members of the Sanhedrin are said to have “looked intently at him, and saw that “his face was like that of an angel.”    It was as if he had seen the face of God.

Stephen’s serenity in this dire situation shows us the power of the Spirit, deep faith, and conviction in the message of Jesus. It is easy to imagine that this young man who was aware that the punishment for blasphemy was death, had already placed himself in the care of the Lord. Stephen’s example during his trial and, later, at the time of his execution by stoning, is one of the most profound in the New Testament. His short, but intensely loving, ministry and complete trust and belief in God are guide posts for us all.  The young first martyr of Christianity simply and literally followed the example of our Lord -- even to his death.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus was asked the question, “what can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.” Stephen most certainly had learned this lesson, lived it fully, and died for it.  

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