Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Account of the faith of St. Stephen

This week, I have been fascinated with St. Stephen.  He was appointed as one of the first deacons, and he is revered as the first martyr of the early Church; yet little else is known about him.  Articles have been written suggesting he was a convert from Judaism, or, perhaps, a convert from Hellenism.  Nevertheless, what is very clear to me is that his faith in Jesus was powerful!

I wonder if Stephen knew Jesus personally, or, if Stephen, like myself, came to know Jesus the way in which any of us born in the 20th century have come to know Jesus - through the faith of others, and through our personal relationship with Jesus as a result of that faith.  I know that I seek to know Jesus and live the way Jesus lived, yet I certainly don't have the incredible enthusiasm and zeal that Stephen had.

Somehow, Stephen, in the very early Church, before Christology became a formal study, and while people were still talking about their personal experiences of meeting Jesus and witnessing His healings and His teachings, somehow Stephen got to know Jesus.  This personal knowledge really seemed to fill him with a personal 'fire' for proclaiming the wonder of Jesus' resurrection and the fact that Jesus is our Savior.  He did this before all sorts of people, and, when proclaiming Jesus in front of the 'wrong people' angered them to the point of being stoned to death for his belief.  And, as he was dying, he was able to proclaim that he was commending his spirit to Jesus and forgiving those who stoned him.

This is, to me, incredible faith.  I pray for an increase of faith so that I may live in the way of Jesus.  I don't have the gifts of powerful oration or of healing, but rather, I have the gifts of trying each day to be faithful to the way of life that Jesus lived.  It is an ordinary life, a good life and I am grateful for it.  And, I'm also grateful that no one has wished to physically stone me as they stoned Stephen.

I pray for those who have the courage to stand up for their faith in spite of some of the terrible adversity they experience.