Today's Scripture Reading
55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen is remembered as a martyr who bore witness (“martyr” is a transliteration of the Greek “witness”) in both his words and his deeds at the time of his death. He tried to explain in words -- to witness to his experience of -- the Holy Spirit and the vision of Jesus seated at God’s right hand. That didn’t stop the stoning, though. Even so, at the point of death, Stephen prayed for his attackers. He was able to embody the love he first received from God through Jesus the Christ.
Stephen may be the first we remember as martyr, but he is not the last to bear witness to the healing love of God through Jesus. I think of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember Monseñor Oscar Romero. They would not silence their witness, neither word nor deed, to save their own lives. Not all who witness lose their lives. I think of Dorothy Day.
There are so many more who witness in word and deed and never write books or appear on the television news. I think of a young girl who saved her allowance to donate to Habitat for Humanity. I think of a young boy who slipped his shopping money into the red Salvation Army kettle when his mom explained why someone was standing in the cold ringing a bell. Then there’s the man who tilled his coworkers garden and the one who mowed her sick friend’s yard; the employee who risked her own job by trying to change the unethical practices in her workplace.
Who comes to mind for you when you think of Christians who witness in word and deed? What has been your own experience of Jesus? How do you witness your own experience in word and deed?
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