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.
Let’s see, should I go to lunch with the “Senior Lunch Bunch” or should I just stay home and listen to TV news today? Should I go to the local town hall meeting tonight and listen to people rant and rave or should I stay home, cozy up next to the fireplace and read my book?
I spent my years right out of college looking for a job that would pay me lots of money. A year and a half into that adventure, I was sidetracked into teaching, a not very good paying career in 1970. After ten years of teaching, I got an opportunity to once again pursue that dream of making money, and so I did. That worked for the next sixteen years until I turned fifty and began asking myself what am I living for.
A church group I was involved with at the time was studying Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I joined them and so began a search that continues to this day and is reflected in the above questions. Immediately (well, a year or two into the search) I decided to forget about making lots of money and return to teaching, the one consistent activity in my life that gave me a sense of mission and meaning.
I believe the choices I make today are what I am living and dying for. I have been blessed with a life where I could make such choices. I realize that not everyone has that gift. Many of us, especially the poor and marginalized in our world must take what they can get just to survive and in many cases, not even that.
Stephen’s stoning in today’s scripture selection from Acts, tells of his choice to challenge the religious leaders of his day leading to his stoning and martyrdom. He could have stayed home and maybe not watch the TV news, or even read a good book, but he certainly could have chosen not to get involved. I suspect that wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime choice for Stephen, but rather an action totally consistent with all his life’s choices. I don’t for a minute, believe my choices today will lead to martyrdom, but I do believe they are what I am dying for. Help me today dear God to make choices that help bring about Your Spirit in my world.
Finally, remarkably, Stephen doesn’t curse his stoners, but prays for their well-being, quite a contrast to my “natural” (?) tendency to get rid of or to at least ignore anyone that would get in the way of my succeeding. Maybe that’s why Stephen is considered a saint.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.