This reading introduces us to Stephen being buried by devout men. Stephen was the first deacon and the first Christian martyr. All this is going on while the Church in Jerusalem is suffering from severe persecution. Our Church and its members are still being persecuted in Jerusalem, 2,000 years after Christ’s death to save us. I think Christ was our first Christian martyr! He died after being persecuted for not denying his faith, his faith in his father- to save all of us and lead us towards redemption.
The enormity of being a martyr for one’s faith has always profoundly moved me. I remember in grammar school when I stayed home from school when I was ill, my parents gave me a book about saints to read. I remember enjoying reading the stories about the saints. What I do not remember is at what age it dawned on me that the individuals I was reading about became saints because they usually suffered a painful death. They died after being persecuted for their faith. They were providing us with ongoing examples of their devotion and love for our Lord, similar to our Lord’s devotion to His Father.
These rich lives of the saints provide us with wonderful examples of devotion and people to pray to. They also provide a testament to being strong in the face of enormous adversity. If we believe, and have faith while focusing on our Lord and the reward of eternal happiness in heaven with Him, we can overcome anything.
I wonder if I am capable of being as brave as our blessed saints were?
—Bob Thomas is Executive Director and CEO of Rainbows for All God’s Children, Evanston IL