April 12, 2016
Today's reading from Acts recounts the heroic martyrdom of Stephen:
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them”;
and when he said this, he fell asleep.
Today I felt a lot like the sheepish apostles who told Jesus that they, too, could suffer martyrdom for a spot on his right and on his left. I contemplated Stephen's martyrdom after Mass and realized how scared it made me feel. Perhaps it was my choice of classes this semester, but I feel like I've been reading a lot of accounts of bodies in pain lately. And I can't handle it--I got faint last night reading a book for school in which a character steps in broken glass. How often we have grand ideas of how we would act if we were the ones being persecuted--as if our strength in those moments is self-generated.
The truth is, I can't even walk up the stairs of the subway without losing my patience. When God asks for the tiny martyrdom of changing my plans for the evening, I give a long-suffering, sarcastic sigh. When He asks for the tiny obedience of filling in for a coworker, I roll my eyes. "We can't do anything without God," may sound cliche by now, but we can't even suffer correctly without Him, either. Nor can we come to grips with our daily sufferings without the eternal perspective of His love and mercy towards us and those around us.
Before we would make ourselves martyrs, let us make ourselves disciples.
St. Stephen, pray for us, that we may be brave in the face of suffering and sacrifice.