Today’s reading: Acts 7: 1-30
Today’s reading is the first half the speech Stephen makes to the Jewish council.
Two things are significant about this speech. The first actually is recounted at the end of Chapter 6. Stephen is preaching and is, “full of grace and power”, and did, “great wonders and signs among the people”. This causes many converts but has the opposite on some others. They stir up people against Stephen. They accuse Stephen of blasphemy and get false witnesses to testify against him. The main charge again is that the destruction of the Temple is foretold. If this sounds at all familiar, it should. The events, accusations and trial are identical to the ones made against Jesus. It should not surprise us then when similar events unfold in the lives of holy people even today. In fact, many great saints were ostracized even by the Church for a period before their revelations were accepted and recognized. In part, this probably comes from good motives. Religious leaders have an obligation to protect the faithful from being misled. A person coming before them claiming divine revelation could be telling the truth or could be trying to mislead to gain power and influence. This is why the Church always correctly looks for the humility messenger as a sign and also carefully reviews the revelation to determine that it consistent with previous revelation before declaring it valid.
Second, notice that the council proceeds with the persecution of Stephen even though his they saw that his, “face was like that of an angel”. This to me is a sign that these religious leaders have lost their altruistic motivations and instead are acting out of self-interest. They are given direct divine evidence that the person before them is holy and speaking divine revelation yet they ignore it. Even still we should ascribe a charitable explanation as possible to their actions. As religious leaders they were losing their faithful at a staggering pace. To them it must have seemed as if a great heresy was destroying their religion. That is why Stephen’s speech recounting the history of salvation is so important. He is desperately trying to show them that they are repeating the same mistakes as their forefathers made. He’s trying to show them they are straying from the path God has laid out.
Tomorrow: Acts 7: 31-60