Reading 1 & Gospel – December 26, 2019 – Acts 6, 8-10, 7:54-59, and Matthew 10:17-22
Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyrenians, 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.
When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, 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 he 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.”
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”
In the Acts reading we are introduced to Saul – before his letters were awarded and he journeys to Damascus – before his world is changed. Today he is a young student of Gamaliel instigating a stoning of a deacon in the service of Jesus.
If you think God has no plans for us – Gamaliel felt those of “the Way” should be left alone and they would fade away. The worst thing would be to give them a martyr(s). Yet, his best and brightest does just that.
In the Gospel Jesus warns his true followers what will happen. And Stephen does what Christ said to do. He let the Spirit speak through him.
Saul left Gamaliel and went about tearing families from their homes, killing, imprisoning and forcing them to lose everything.
Then he asked for authority to go do the same in Damascus.
One martyred deacon plus one zealous student of the greatest rabbi in Jerusalem equals the most important conversion in our history.
Thank you St Stephen for your willingness to follow Christ in death for us.
At least that’s what I heard Him say…