STEP #1: LECTIO / READ
Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
“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.”
When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them”;
and when he said this, he fell asleep.
Now Saul was consenting to his execution.
STEP #2: MEDITATIO / MEDITATE
I love Pope Francis. I love his joy, the smile that always seems to be on his face. I love the sense of peace that he brings to those around him. I love that he is on Instagram. And one of the things I love the most about Pope Francis is His openness to stating the truth and not really censoring himself. He just talks. And sometimes, that gets him into trouble. One little snippet is picked up and misinterpreted by the media. But the truth does come out. And Pope Francis is not changing Church teaching, but instead fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel.
But, Pope Francis keeps talking anyway. Why? Because he wants to get God’s message of love out to the entire world. And the naysayers, those who get upset with him, those that accuse him of wrongdoing can’t be stopped when he is proclaiming God’s love.
Reading about St. Stephen today, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities between him and Pope Francis. St. Stephen is so in love with God that everything He says infuriates the elders and scribes. But as he is calling them out, encouraging them to do better, challenging them to let Jesus not just into their life but their hearts, they are filled with anger. Those around him, the scribes and the elders, the ones who have long tried to uphold the commandments of God are resisting his message. They are resisting the truth. Even though he is getting backlash, St. Stephen went on teaching anyway. He did this so much that he was killed for it. St. Stephen was the first martyr, the first to die for our faith.
But before he died, he had a beautiful vision of heaven. He saw Jesus next to God the Father, and Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. In that moment he knew just who he was fighting for. Who he was proclaiming. He was filled with peace, so much peace that his violent death by stoning is described as him falling asleep.
Are you at peace? Are you able to proclaim the Gospel without fear? When people are telling you you are wrong, do you smile? Do you keep proclaiming the truth? Or do you let yourself be stopped?
St. Stephen and Pope Francis, though they have lived thousands of years apart, can teach us the same thing. Go out, live fearlessly and proclaim the Gospel with your whole heart.
STEP #3: ORATIO / PRAY
Can others tell that I am a Christian?
Am I afraid of what others might think about my faith?
Do I share the Gospel with Joy?
STEP #4: CONTEMPLATIO / CONTEMPLATE
Proclaim the Gospel with all your heart.
FOR THE REST OF YOUR DAY...
Throughout today, try and live any suffering with joy. Do you have a test? Do you have a lot of homework? Whatever life throws at you today, take it on with a smile and use it as a chance to be an example of Christian hope and joy.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Lisa Kendzior