Every culture and civilization rests on its ability to be grounded in the truth, which leads to making things right, justice, which leads to peace. True peace can’t exist without justice. It follows that those individuals who don’t like the truth, because of the changes that would have to take place in facing the truth, create lies. At the heart of evil is the lie, the deceit, that creates a power that wants to control and dominate. Satan is frequently called the “father of lies.”
St. Stephen is seen in today's reading from Acts as debating with some people about Jesus: his identity and mission. They didn’t like what Stephen was saying about Jesus, but they weren’t able to refute his persuasive words. These people couldn’t face the truth that the message of Jesus, his gospel, has the power to unite people from many cultures, salvation crossing all barriers. These individuals went from debating Stephen, to hating him, to creating lies and deceit about his message. Discredit the messenger with lies and then get rid of him and it all begins and ends in lies. Through it all, Stephen remains calm, serene, imitating the very person he loves and follows, Jesus, who refused to lash out at those who were also creating lies at what he was preaching.
So many of us who are leaders, politically and religiously, unfortunately resort to not facing the truth, lying, to protect our position or enhance our power. Lies create scandals which, in turn, create divisions and chaos. And it is so easy to see the lies in those we don’t like, while remaining blind to the lies within our own self proclaimed “tribes.” The lies and lying cross many boundaries, and they have the power to unite with each other, creating quite a force. In today’s reading, the lies brought together people from various cultures to unite against Stephen and the gospel. Remember, opposing forces joined together in getting Jesus condemned and put to death.
In these times of facing a pandemic crisis, untruths and lies unfortunately have been spoken by people in positions of leadership. Much of the deceit centers on the reality that an election will take place in our country in six months. Much is at stake for everyone in our country. To be a follower of Jesus, we have to face the truth and the lies: about which communities this pandemic is affecting the most; who gets the best health care, who is left out of the health care; how money is generated and spent in our economy; who votes and how do we count the votes; the unseen poor, elderly, and unborn; the list goes on...Facing the truth and lies is never convenient.
May we have the courage to face these truths and lies by not shouting at each other, by not stooping to the lowest common denominator, so prevalent in social media by all sides, by not allowing understandable and necessary righteous anger to blind us to our own deceits. The first martyr of our faith, Stephen, faced the throwing of stones by the hateful crowd with surrender, not condemnation. In this horrible act of violence, Stephen gazed upward, seeing a vision of heaven, the place of his destiny. And ours too, heaven... the Kingdom...if only we don’t throw words of stone, and accept words of stone thrown at us in a spirit of prayer. Turning the cheek is never easy, but when we do so, we see heaven in all its splendor.