Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr
The Wisdom from on high has come, and his Spirit cannot be withstood. It is from this grace and power that Stephen speaks in our first reading, for God gives himself not only to be beheld, but so that we might live from him. Yet, for those who refuse God’s wisdom, even beholding those who live from that wisdom can be infuriating. The simplicity of Stephen’s witness “scatters the proud in their conceit.”
In the Christmas readings, the shepherds were granted a vision of the glory of God, and Stephen is offered a glimpse of that glory in today’s first reading. But those challenging Stephen cannot endure this day of the Lord’s coming, so they stone him to death. We are left with Stephen’s last words: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” The Lord visited his people through Stephen, and now Stephen goes to his Lord to stay.
The glory that descends from above to abide with us is not like the glory that we seek for ourselves, for we often glory in the things that exalt us, whereas God’s glory will not cease to descend until it has reached the very last place. God comes to be with us, to tame our wild hearts so that they are no longer filled with the imaginations of our mind but instead become hearts of flesh, after the Lord’s own heart. As our hearts become softer, they also become stronger. Christ beckons us to follow him, but he leads us where we do not expect. Yes, he is leading us back to the Father, but the path he treads does not lead up to the exalted heights that we grasp after, but down to the earth, to the very last, most forsaken place where God abides and waits for us.