Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear, let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful, and he tells us: "My yoke is easy, and my burden light." - Saint Boniface
(Acts 6:8-15) Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyreneans, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia ,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Then they instigated some men to say,
“We have heard him speaking blasphemous words
against Moses and God.”
They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes,
accosted him, seized him,
and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
They presented false witnesses who testified,
“This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law.
For we have heard him claim
that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place
and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”
All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him
and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
St. Stephen’s ability to maintain a peaceful demeanor in the face of such uncertainty blew me away as I read the readings for today. He simply sits, calmly and patiently, as false witnesses testify against him. He simply sits, with an angelic expression on his faith, waiting to hear what the Sanhedrin will decide; whether or not he will be put to death. He has the courage- the faith- that we read about- even long for- yet most of us never seem to attain.
We go through Mass, even go through our days, saying things similar to those found in the responsorial psalm today (although probably in more colloquial terms),
“ Yes, your decrees are my delight;
they are my counselors.” -Psalm 119:24
And yet, when times of trouble hit, when the world isn’t all right, when life isn’t going as we have planned, how many of us can still honestly make this claim?
I know I can’t. The slightest change in a plan can send me into a frenzy, as many of my friends and family can attest. Sure, I love meditating on the Word of God, spending time in prayer, and even telling others about him when things are going well. But as soon as I hit a bump in the road, Jesus is kicked out of the driver’s seat and I take over.
I think this is where most of us are, but we know it’s far from where we’d like to be. The question now is, how do we get from point A to point B? How do we go from having a fragile faith to one that can withstand even a death sentence?
The answer, I believe, is trust. We must trust. The Lord has given us everything, could take away everything; so why do we still have such trouble letting him direct our lives?
When Jesus commands us in the Gospel,
“Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life. . .” - John 6:27
do we take it at face-value? Do we truly believe this should be our life’s goal. . . or are we only going halfway, hoping to give enough to please God, but not so much that we can’t take care of ourselves if he fails us? Is that trust?
St. Stephen was not only willing to lose his whole life for the Word, but he did. He lost everything on earth; yet he gained treasure upon treasure in heaven. St. Stephen trusted God; he trusted him enough to hand over the keys, and let the Lord decide where to take him. Do we?