April 17, 2018
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. (Acts 7:51-8:1)
We have a reading with a number of “firsts” today. Stephen, one of the first deacons of the Church, was the first Christian to die a martyr’s death. He continued to preach the word of God, despite seeing how his words infuriated the crowd. He willingly accepted the suffering and the death it would ultimately cause. And finally, he showed compassion and forgiveness for his persecutors in his plea, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Faith under fire graphically on display.
Another first: We get our first glimpse of the relentless persecutor of Christians, “a young man named Saul.” Saul, of course, would later undergo a conversion experience and become one of the most influential Christians in history – St. Paul. He would eventually dies a martyr’s death himself.
All things are possible through Him.