We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen
Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15
Acts 6:8 - 7:2a, 51c - 50
Matthew 23: 34 - 39
Stephen's life intrigues me no matter how often I read about him. He is described as a man with a good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. The writer of Acts goes on to say that Stephen was full of grace and fortitude. Stephen was also a prolific preacher who was highly skilled in logic. He was so skilled that he was conspired against. Religious folks lied and their lie led to Stephen's death by stoning.
When I read about St. Stephen I am so humbled by his willingness to serve. He didn't claw his way to the top, to "apostleship." He didn't have a need to work side-by-side with the men in charge. No one is named as a disciple of Stephen. Yet his gift made room for him as he made room for his gift. By all accounts Stephen was a brilliant man, an intelligent person who served, who spoke the truth, and who was killed because of it. (Haters will take you out!)
In celebrating the Feast of St. Stephan I give thanks for that great cloud of witnesses who came before to leave a testimony of their faith. It is their testimony that keeps me connected to the Church of Jesus Christ. Otherwise I would probably not bother showing up. I trust and believe God from anywhere that I am, but it is because of these saints, Stephen and others, who were martyred and persecuted for the Gospel's sake that keeps me physically in church and emotionally attached.
I pray that I make room for my gifts, that I am available to the Spirit, and that I act upon the strength and courage granted to me to love and serve God and others with gladness.