Stephen gets stoned to death in today’s first reading from Acts 7:51-8:1. When I read scripture I am always amazed at how often people handle truth, disagreement and perceived blasphemy with death. Even the end of this passage strikes at my heart. It says, “Now Saul was consenting to his execution.” This is the same Saul, who became Paul, the great writer of so many letters and epistles in Sacred Scripture. His words and teachings have brought countless men, women and children to Jesus.
Before Stephen infuriated the people, the elders and the scribes, this is what he had to say to them. “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”
These are some pretty harsh accusations against them. Though I know they are true, it must have been difficult to stand there and listen to them. Of course, I would never condone the actions of the people to stone him but I think about how one should evangelize. Would Stephen’s accusations draw people closer to Jesus or push them away? He was following the prompting of the Holy Spirit and I must accept this as the will of God. But in my own evangelization, I have found that pounding the truth and teaching of God upon others has such a negative effect. Today, I hear mercy. I hear love. At this point of my life, I think I am really called to be a good example of living the Gospel by loving the people in my life right where they are but always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks me to give an account for the hope that is in me with gentleness and reverence. And my hope is definitely in my Lord and Merciful Savior, Jesus Christ.