Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
Wednesday After Christmas
Feast of St Stephen
The life and death of St. Stephen is a reminder that lectio divina can help us develop a prayerful relationship with God. Prayer is nourished by reading and hearing the Word of God, in communion with Jesus and his Church. St. Stephen’s courage in the face of those who condemned him to death was clearly grounded in what we would today call lectio divina: a prayerful re-reading of the Christ event in the light of God’s word.
Stephen was accused of declaring that Jesus would tear down the Temple in Jerusalem and demolish the laws and customs of Moses. He appealed to the Jewish scriptures to prove that the laws of Moses were not being thrown out by Jesus but, instead, were being completed and fulfilled. In the events narrated in Sacred Scripture, which Stephen would have heard whenever he went to the synagogue, God never tires of encountering us, despite often finding stubborn opposition.
In all of that, Stephen saw a foreshadowing of the story of Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, who – like the patriarchs of old – encountered obstacles, rejection, and death. Stephen showed that Jesus was the Righteous One announced by the prophets, and actually God himself, present in a unique and definitive way: Jesus is the true place of worship.
At the conclusion of his trial, St. Stephen was given a vision of Jesus as the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. Our prayer also should be the contemplation of Jesus at the right hand of God, of Jesus as Lord of our daily existence. In Jesus and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we too can turn to God with the trust and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves us infinitely.
St. Stephen’s reward for his testimony was death by stoning but his very martyrdom is the fulfillment of his life and his message: he becomes one with Christ even to the point of asking God not to hold their sin against those killing him. His intercession and example should teach us to learn daily to unite prayer, contemplation of Christ and reflection on God’s Word. In this way we will appreciate more deeply God’s saving plan, and make Christ truly the Lord of our lives.