Easter Season with the First Disciples – St.Stephen
“When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.”
—Acts of the Apostles 7:54–60
In giving up his spirit to the Lord, Stephen became poor. He gave up all he had—his spirit and his life—and placed his life in Jesus’ hands. Stephen had nothing, and he suffered death at the hands of those who persecuted him. The Beatitudes remind me that the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3, 10)
Stephen truly did see the Kingdom of Heaven that day. He saw it when he beheld the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. More importantly, he saw the Kingdom of Heaven when he uttered with his last breath, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Stephen teaches me that forgiveness allows me to see the Kingdom of Heaven present in the world today. It allows me to overcome the grudges, resentment, and offenses that divide communities. To celebrate the Risen Christ is to acknowledge that mercy and compassion are more powerful than anger and revenge.
When I focus on forgiveness, the Kingdom of Heaven seems more of a possibility. It is no longer something that I passively wait for, but, with God’s grace, it is something I can actively work toward.
by Bob Burnham, author of Little Lessons from the Saints
► Pray with The Beatitudes Examen.
► Read The Way of Discipleship by James P. Campbell.