By Deacon Bill Hagen
For the Umatuna Si Yu’os
Reflections from Acts 6 and 7.
St. Stephen is, by our tradition, known as the “First Deacon” and the first Christian Martyr. Stephen was selected, along with six other men, by the original 12 disciples to serve the church. This was during the early years shortly after Christ’s Ascension. Christ’s followers, small in number, still thought of themselves as members of the Jewish community and felt their role was to bring the message of Jesus to their fellow Jews.
St. Stephen was a forceful preacher. He was filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit and debated daily in the synagogue with the Jews. His ability confounded and angered those with whom he debated who finely brought him up on false charges claiming that he blasphemed against Moses and God. St. Stephen presented his defense in such a way that he so infuriated his accusers, as we read in the Acts, that they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. (Fortunate for me, and the other Deacons on Guam, stoning isn’t done in the Catholic Church.)
It’s interesting to note that at Stephen’s stoning we are introduced to Saul. We heard, “They laid their cloaks at the feet of a man named Saul” (Acts 7:58). Saul was one of the most determined persecutors of the early Christians until he met the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus. He then changed his name to Paul and focused the rest of his life preaching Christ’s message. He is also responsible for several books in the New Testament.
When being challenged in our faith by others, Jesus tells us not to prepare in advance. He tells us that when the time comes not to worry about what to say because at that moment the Spirit of the Father will speak through you if you truly believe and trust in God.
The Holy Spirit was with St. Stephen in his preaching and in his defense. This same spirit stayed with him during the stoning when he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And later when he asked, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” Who among us could forgive those who were stoning us? It is only possible with the intervention of God’s Holy Spirit.
You may contact Deacon Bill at Deacon96910@hotmail.com