By Tom Quiner
The 7th chapter of Acts of the Apostles is a doozy.
A young Christian, Stephen, lectures the Jewish power structure on the history of the Jewish faith.
As you might suspect, this didn’t go over well with his self-righteous and prideful audience. Who is this young guy, who is promoting a competing religion, to think he can lecture us on our religion?
As their agitation built to a fever pitch, Stephen looked to heaven and said,
“Look! I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God!”
This was too much. They knew very well to whom Stephen referred when he said Son of Man. He referred to Jesus, that trouble-maker who turned Jerusalem upside down just a few years earlier.
In their anger, they stoned Stephen to death, making him the first Christian martyr.
What I found remarkable about St. Stephen was his mercy.
As he is being stoned to death, he beseeches God to forgive his misguided executioners. For the record, one of them was Paul of Tarsus, enemy of Christ and future Saint of the Catholic Church.
Stephen’s story is but one story of mercy being showcased in THE FIRE AND THE MERCY, The Pentecost Musical.
Imagine this young man making his way through ancient Jerusalem evangelizing Christ in such a hostile environment. I’m excited to see how our director depicts the events surrounding his preaching and eventual stoning.
The music is at times flowing before abruptly transitioning into an uptempo, agitated beat. It shifts from a major key to a minor one.
One of the challenges in writing the lyrics to the music for his story was how to compress chapter seven into a manageable length. Suffice it to say, I cut the heck out of it.
Stephen’s speech in chapter seven is a long, sprawling recap of the Old Testament. I distilled it down to a single verse. But you’ll get the idea.
Stephen’s scene is meant to convey his love for Christ and put it on full display by asking God to forgive the men subjecting him to a gruesome death.
In this ‘year of mercy,’ let us ask St. Stephen to pray with us for mercy for ourselves, our friends and families, and our communities.