In today’s First Reading St. Stephen’s martyrdom shows his detractors to be stuck in the same rut as they were when they put Our Lord on trial, but Stephen shows them the status quo cannot be maintained anymore. That same Spirit that fills him with the strength and witness to testify to the truth even to martyrdom tells his adversaries that they are resisting the Holy Spirit and killing the Spirit’s messengers, just as they’d done time and time again by murdering the prophets and Our Lord, whom they considered just another false prophet. The only problem is that you cannot kill the truth. Resisting the Spirit, killing the Spirit’s messenger are pointless.
When Stephen is blessed by a vision of seeing Our Lord in Heaven at the right hand of God, the Sanhedrin has they same reaction they did when Jesus told them that they would see him seated at the right hand of power, a clear allusion to the prophecy in Daniel concerning the Messiah (see Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 26:64, Luke 22:69, Mark 14:62): kill the blasphemer. Now Stephen is seeing that very event; Our Lord has ascended and taken his place at the right hand of the Father. He has shown himself to be the Messiah, yet they have resisted the Spirit and the truth and, once again, try to kill it. Like Our Lord, Stephen forgives them for their crime in his dying breath.
If the Sanhedrin are staying stuck in their rut, the work of salvation is not: it continues to advance. Stephen was full of Spirit and wisdom and helped many people, even before the witness of martyrdom. Even as he dies forgiving his enemies a young man comes onto the scene. Every listener in Luke’s time knew who Saul was, and who he would become, which is why Luke makes a point of mentioning that Saul condoned Stephen’s death. Little did he know that the Lord had plans for him as well, once he accepted the truth. Let’s pray for the humility and conviction to not be stubborn about accepting the Spirit and the truth.
Readings: Acts 7:51–8:1a; Psalm 31:3c–4, 6, 7b, 8a, 17, 21ab; John 6:30–35. See also 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time,Cycle B, St. Stephen, First Martyr, and 3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday.