”You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”
When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
During Easter, a season of joy, we read about martyrs like Stephen. This is fitting. In Stephen, we see the power of the Holy Spirit at work, and we find a model for us who seek to follow Jesus. We might wonder: can Stephen really be a model for us? Aren’t his heroics a bit beyond us? In one sense, yes; the heroics of Stephen are beyond us—at least, beyond us alone.
But it is Easter, and in this season we meditate on the power of Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection, a power we too have received. We, like Stephen, are given the Holy Spirit, the Spirit which filled Jesus. In this Easter light, what once seemed impossible is now within reach.
If we too are invited and called to live like Stephen—and we each know our weaknesses—then this speaks volumes about the power of God’s grace.
O Lord, giver of life,
fill us, we pray, with the Spirit of your love,
the same Spirit which fills your Son
and which you have offered to us,
that our lives may be transformed
to be a reflection of your love.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
—William Manaker, S.J.
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