Thoughts and Reflection
Today we read about the Hellenists who were the Greek-speaking Jews and they read the scriptures in Greek. We are starting to see a cultural division between the Christians who were Hellenists and the Christians that read the scriptures in Hebrew. Even in the early Church, there are broken and fallen humans that made up the church. It is not surprising there should be division.
The greek-speaking Christians complain that their widows are being neglected. The apostles decided to appoint seven men as deacons to serve their needs. Stephen is one of the deacons and is mentioned as being full of grace and doing great wonders. He will be the first martyr in the Church.
About This Project
For the year 2022, I decided that my New Year’s Resolution was to read the whole Bible following the Bible in the Year plan presented by Fr. Mike Schmitz. It is a big and bold undertaking. You can follow along by subscribing. Feel free to look at previous day’s post and comment. It’s something we can all learn from together!
1 About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked.
2 So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food;
3 you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom, to whom we can hand over this duty.
4 We ourselves will continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’
5 The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
6 They presented these to the apostles, and after prayer they laid their hands on them.
7 The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.
8 Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people.
9 Then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagoguecalled the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia.
10 They found they could not stand up against him because of his wisdom, and the Spirit that prompted what he said.
11 So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’
12 Having turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
13 There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law.
14 We have heard him say that Jesus, this Nazarene, is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’
15 The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.
1 This is the truth and I am speaking in Christ, without pretence, as my conscience testifies for me in the Holy Spirit;
2 there is great sorrow and unremitting agony in my heart:
3 I could pray that I myself might be accursed and cut off from Christ, if this could benefit the brothers who are my own flesh and blood.
4 They are Israelites; it was they who were adopted as children, the glory was theirs and the covenants; to them were given the Law and the worship of God and the promises.
5 To them belong the fathers and out of them, so far as physical descent is concerned, came Christ who is above all, God, blessed for ever. Amen.
6 It is not that God’s promise has failed. Not all born Israelites belong to Israel,
7 and not all the descendants of Abraham count as his children, for Isaac is the one through whom your Name will be carried on.
8 That is, it is not by being children through physical descent that people become children of God; it is the children of the promise that are counted as the heirs.
9 The actual words of the promise were: I shall come back to you at this season, and Sarah will have a son.
10 Even more to the point is what was said to Rebecca when she was pregnant by our ancestor, Isaac,
11 before her children were born, so that neither had yet done anything either good or bad, but in order that it should be God’s choice which prevailed
12 -not human merit, but his call — she was told: the elder one will serve the younger.
13 Or as scripture says elsewhere: I loved Jacob but hated Esau.
14 What should we say, then? That God is unjust? Out of the question!
15 For speaking to Moses, he said: I am gracious to those to whom I am gracious and I take pity on those on whom I take pity.
16 So it is not a matter of what any person wants or what any person does, but only of God having mercy.
17 Scripture says to Pharaoh: I raised you up for this reason, to display my power in you and to have my name talked of throughout the world.
18 In other words, if God wants to show mercy on someone, he does so, and if he wants to harden someone’s heart, he does so.
19 Then you will ask me, ‘How then can he ever blame anyone, since no one can oppose his will?’
20 But you — who do you think you, a human being, are, to answer back to God? Something that was made, can it say to its maker: why did you make me this shape?
21 A potter surely has the right over his clay to make out of the same lump either a pot for special use or one for ordinary use.
22 But suppose that God, although all the time he wanted to reveal his retribution and demonstrate his power, has with great patience gone on putting up with those who are the instruments of his retribution and designed to be destroyed;
23 so that he may make known the glorious riches ready for the people who are the instruments of his faithful love and were long ago prepared for that glory.
24 We are that people, called by him not only out of the Jews but out of the gentiles too.
25 Just as he says in the book of Hosea: I shall tell those who were not my people, ‘You are my people,’ and I shall take pity on those on whom I had no pity.
26 And in the very place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be told that they are ‘children of the living God’.
27 And about Israel, this is what Isaiah cried out: Though the people of Israel are like the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved;
28 for without hesitation or delay the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth.
29 As Isaiah foretold: Had the Lord Sabaoth not left us a few survivors, we should be like Sodom, we should be the same as Gomorrah.
30 What should we say, then? That the gentiles, although they were not looking for saving justice, found it, and this was the saving justice that comes of faith;
31 while Israel, looking for saving justice by law-keeping, did not succeed in fulfilling the Law.
32 And why? Because they were trying to find it in actions and not in faith, and so they stumbled over the stumbling-stone-
33 as it says in scripture: Now I am laying in Zion a stumbling-stone, a rock to trip people up; but he who relies on this will not be brought to disgrace.
1 Brothers, my dearest wish and my prayer to God is for them, that they may be saved.
2 I readily testify to their fervour for God, but it is misguided.
3 Not recognising God’s saving justice they have tried to establish their own, instead of submitting to the saving justice of God.
4 But the Law has found its fulfilment in Christ so that all who have faith will be justified.
5 Moses writes of the saving justice that comes by the Law and says that whoever complies with it will find life in it.
6 But the saving justice of faith says this: Do not think in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ —
7 that is to bring Christ down; or ‘Who will go down to the depths?’ — that is to bring Christ back from the dead.
8 What does it say, then? The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith, the faith which we preach,
9 that if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.
10 It is by believing with the heart that you are justified, and by making the declaration with your lips that you are saved.
11 When scripture says: No one who relies on this will be brought to disgrace,
12 it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: the same Lord is the Lord of all, and his generosity is offered to all who appeal to him,
13 for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
14 How then are they to call on him if they have not come to believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard of him? And how will they hear of him unless there is a preacher for them?
15 And how will there be preachers if they are not sent? As scripture says: How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of good news.
16 But in fact they have not all responded to the good news. As Isaiah says: Lord, who has given credence to what they have heard from us?
17 But it is in that way faith comes, from hearing, and that means hearing the word of Christ.
18 Well then, I say, is it possible that they have not heard? Indeed they have: in the entire earth their voice stands out, their message reaches the whole world.
19 Well, another question, then: is it possible that Israel did not understand? In the first place Moses said: I shall rouse you to jealousywith a non-people, I shall exasperate you with a stupid nation.
20 And Isaiah is even bold enough to say: I have let myself be found by those who did not seek me; I have let myself be seen by those who did not consult me;
21 and referring to Israel, he says: All day long I have been stretching out my hands to a disobedient and rebellious people.
0 Do not give up your friend or your father’s friend; when trouble comes, do not go off to your brother’s house, better a near neighbour than a distant brother.
11 Learn to be wise, my child, and gladden my heart, that I may have an answer for anyone who insults me.
12 The discreet sees danger and takes shelter, simpletons go ahead and pay the penalty.