Pope Francis spoke of St. Stephen and the price martyrs pay in his April 17, 2018, homily at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.
A true prophet tells the people the truth – even when they don’t accept it – but still weeps for them, the Pope said. His words were reported in Vatican News.
St. Stephen clearly spoke with tough love in chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”
The response of the people to Stephen’s words? They threw him out of the city and stoned him to death, creating the first martyr.
“When the prophet speaks the truth and touches the heart, or the heart opens or becomes stone, anger and persecutions are unleashed,” Francis said “that’s how life ends for the prophet…sometimes truth is not easy to listen to…prophets have always had to deal with being persecuted for speaking the truth.”
The Pope stressed that the Church needs prophets. And it needs prophets more than critics. He explained that a critic is “never happy” but a prophet weeps when his people err.
“A prophet knows when to scold but knows also how to throw open the doors to hope. A true prophet puts himself on the line,” the Holy Father concluded. “May this service of prophecy never be lacking in the Church, in order to be able to always go forward”.