Saul stood by with a heart harder than the stones striking Stephen. Unconvinced by Stephen’s eloquent preaching, unmoved by his miracles, blind to his angelic countenance, blinder still to his burning love, the eyes of Saul’s soul, sealed shut by the weight of stone scales, saw only darkness.
How many of our co-workers, friends, neighbors, loved ones, seem similarly unseeing before the love that has flooded our hearts? Yes, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts” (Rom 5:5), which burn when we hear those words, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; Abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).
How much it pains our hearts to see our loved ones wandering without that one thing that can satisfy—and more than satisfy—the tortured depths of the human heart.
How can these signs and wonders, miracles, words of wisdom, acts of charity, the love of martyrs, not move all hearts? Yet, Saul stood stubborn seeing Stephen see the Son standing at God’s right hand in glory.
Is the love that fills our hearts so weak, so unattractive, so insufficient?
Love is a subtle thing, patiently plodding, plowing forward when the ground seems all stones where never a thing could grow. But persistently, consistently, love works, bursting forth unexpectedly with abundant fruit.
As the mob disbanded, retrieving their coats from Saul’s watch, leaving Stephen’s blood soaking the stones, all the deacon’s mighty words and deeds, all his eloquence, his very love, seemed insufficient.
But even as Saul scattered the Church, Stephen’s love worked behind the scenes. St. Fulgentius of Ruspe says that in “his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.”
With love never growing tired, Stephen loved those unmoved by what he loved most. Stephen’s insistent love shattered the dark, adamant stone of Saul’s heart, which the Lord converted after the likeness of his own heart. Has ever a heart changed so much?
Stephen’s blood watered the stony soil of Saul’s soul. Like the Lord he loved, Stephen became as a grain of wheat that, unless it “falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). That fruit we still taste whenever we receive the words of Paul’s preaching or behold them shake the soul of a St. Augustine.
May we love those dearest to us as Stephen loved Saul, yea, as Christ has loved us, loved us to the end (Jn 13:1).
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)