I, too, am called to be a servant. Honored to be so? I'm working on that part. There have been times when I've felt like "waiting tables" has actually been my sole occupation, on those days when cleaning up from one meal merged right into preparing another. I would have done well, when my children were small and it seemed I was always "feeding," to have thought about the service of Stephen. As it was, I simply knew of him as a martyr.
Reading Acts 6 and 7 today, I found a number of things to love about Stephen. He was deeply spiritual and prudent, he spoke with wisdom; and when he was falsely accused, his face "seemed like that of an angel." He fearlessly spoke the truth of God, and those who listened were stung to the heart (Acts 7:54). But did they repent? It appears not, for they ground their teeth in anger.
And then, as we know, they stoned him.
What does this have to do with living as a cloistered heart? I would say: pretty much everything.
I am particularly struck by two main things about St. Stephen. First: he was willing to humbly serve by waiting on tables. At the same time, he fed spiritually, freely sharing the truth of Christ.
Second: If anyone ever "viewed and responded to circumstances 'through the grille,'" it was Stephen. Even as his persecutors were grinding their teeth at him, he boldly exclaimed "'Look!... I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God's right hand." I am sure this acute view of reality buffered the saint's agony as stones were hurled at him. "As he was being stoned, he could be heard praying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' He fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'" (Acts 7:54, 59, 60)
What a way to meet one's Maker.
I have never had stones thrown at me - not physically, anyway. But smirks and arguments and snubs for living and speaking the truth of God? O course. This has probably happened to all of us. Even Jesus told us to expect nothing less. "You will be hated by all on account of Me." (Matthew 10:22)
When I feel the sting of tiny "she's a religious fanatic" pebbles... from neighbors or relatives or associates of any kind... I hope to remember Stephen. I ask this great saint to pray for us.
I feel that in St. Stephen, we have another cloistered heart patron. May he help each of us find the view through the grille.
Painting: St. Stephen the Martyr, Vincenzo Foppa, 1500s
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