Step #1: Lectio / Read
Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyreneans, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Then they instigated some men to say,
“We have heard him speaking blasphemous words
against Moses and God.”
They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes,
accosted him, seized him,
and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
They presented false witnesses who testified,
“This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law.
For we have heard him claim
that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place
and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”
All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him
and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
How do you handle change?
It's easy to judge the Jewish authorities during the time of the early Church. In the Acts of the Apostles they're seen as the "bad guys." The Apostles are striving to spread the Gospel, but the evil villains (they must have had mustaches, right?) did everything in their power to prevent it.
But maybe today we can relate to the Jewish authorities more than we realize.
We hear again one of the biggest accusations leveled at Jesus and the early Church: that they are trying to "change the customs that Moses handed down to us." Why do they keep making such a big deal out of this?
The Jews saw Moses as one of the greatest prophets of all time. He freed the entire Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, performed the renowned miracle of splitting the sea in half, brought the Ten Commandments down from the mountain, had lots of personal conversations with God, set the Jewish people on a course for the Promised Land, and helped develop the laws and rituals that the Jewish people observed for centuries upon centuries. Quite the resume, Moses.
Imagine it from the perspective of the Jewish people. This hot-shot Jesus comes around performing all these magical miracles and tells everyone that He's come to set things right between God and us humans. Who does He think He is? Sure, His miracles are pretty cool, but His public ministry only lasted three years, and before that He didn't do anything noteworthy enough to even make it into the Bible. What gives Him the right to go against the almighty Moses? Is He implying that Moses was wrong and the Jewish people have been deceived this whole time?
They finally get rid of Jesus. Now His followers are spreading His message everywhere. So instead of one Jesus to cause trouble, there are a dozen Apostles. Then, as we saw the other day, they ordained Deacons. And in the Acts of the Apostles we hear that they're recruiting thousands of people at a time.
I'll ask this again: How do you handle change?
There's often a natural resistance to change built-in to many of us. There are probably a lot of reasons why this happens. Ultimately, we're afraid. Afraid of what will happen, afraid of what might not happen, afraid of how it will affect us, afraid of unintended consequences... afraid of the unknown.
Almost makes you feel sorry for the Jewish authorities now that we can relate, doesn't it?
So who are you in today's Scripture? Are you like the Jewish authorities? Afraid of God's will because it means a step into unfamiliar territory? Or are you like St. Stephen, "filled with grace and power" from the Holy Spirit? Trusting his will as He takes you into the unknown.
How do you handle change? Do you fear? Or do you trust?
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
"For we have heard him claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us."
How do I handle change?
What is it about change that I'm most afraid of?
Heavenly Father, what is in my heart that makes it hard for me to trust You?
St. Stephen, how did you have so much courage? How did you trust our Lord so much?
Jesus, help me to trust You more. What do I need in my life to be a more trusting disciple?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
"Change my heart, O God."
"Fill me with Your grace and power."
"Jesus, increase my trust."
"St. Stephen, pray for me."
For the Rest of Your Day...
Try to recognize the moments today when you fear the unknown in your life. Make a short silent prayer asking Jesus for more trust.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Dan Wolff.