Only once or twice in my Jesuit formation so far have I personally felt the Enemy actively and urgently at work. In my ministry at juvenile hall, where teenage boys await sentencing, I often sense a dark fist tightening on the hearts and minds of those young men: fueling their guilt, feeding their anger and tearing away at the truth that God loves us all without condition. Convincing the incarcerated that they are greater than their worst deeds isn’t easy, but that challenge never stopped Christ from emphatic calls not to overlook care for prisoners.

Something to remember as we honor St. Stephen today are the actions for which Paul was responsible before starting his own ministry. While we don’t know if Paul heaved a rock at the Church’s first martyr himself, we do know that this great persecutor of early Christians went on to experience a ferocious change of heart that led him to become a leader in our faith history.

We are better than our worst actions. The trust we place in the boundless grace and mercy of God opens the door to forgiveness, healing, profound change and the Christmas light of Christ.

—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a scholastic of the West Province currently in Regency in the Advancement Office at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California.




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