20TH APRIL 2021
ACTS 7:51-8:1 PSALM 31:3-8.17-21 JOHN 6:30-35 Today's First Reading can be read as a warning about the absolute certainty of our understanding of God. The more certain we are of our correctness, the more willing we are to use any means possible to protect our understanding.
Why was Stephen stoned to death? He was stoned to death because he represented faith in a way that his opponents had not imagined. Stephen gives them a history of their relationship with God from the time of their ancestor Abraham to Moses all the way to David.
Stephens concentrates more on the role of Moses showing that when the time drew near for God to keep the promise he had made to Abraham, the number of the Israelites had grown in Egypt and God was to use him in fulfilling the promises.
Stephen expounds on how the ancestors refused to obey Moses and wished to go back to Egypt and made idols thus making God turn away from them. In the end, Stephen tells them, " You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears. You always resist the Holy Spirit. "
The neck is one part of the body that is not stiff, it moves easily. If they are stiff-necked it means that they do not want to see the truth around them. They are only comfortable with what they see and not with what others see. Stephen challenged the understanding of the people who stoned him. Have you ever asked yourself whether the person who tells you the opposite of what you think is right may indeed be right?
They killed Stephen because they were so invested in their orthodoxy. Is your way of doing things preventing you from seeing another perspective? We, the readers, now become those invited to reflect on how we have manifested the patterns of unfaithfulness that Stephen has spoken about.
Stephen's ultimate message is the announcement of new beginnings even for those who would rob him of his life. Stephen is able to love so recklessly because he has entrusted himself to Jesus.
The stoning of Stephen becomes an opportunity for a new beginning in those who watch his witness attentively. The gift of this event interrupts our failings as it did for Paul when he remembered his involvement in this hostility as he announced the hospitality of God that moved his own gracious vocation toward the Gentiles - Acts 22:20.
Are there issues of faith that we disagree about, and how do we approach them? Have we made faith a competition to see who is right or wrong instead of seeking the truth?
This reading is also a warning about the absolute certainty of our understanding of God when we think we know him 100%.
May God help us if we ever become certain of our orthodoxy.