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Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr



Gospel Mt 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples:

"Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts

and scourge you in their synagogues,

and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake

as a witness before them and the pagans.

When they hand you over,

do not worry about how you are to speak

or what you are to say.

You will be given at that moment what you are to say.

For it will not be you who speak

but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Brother will hand over brother to death,

and the father his child;

children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.

You will be hated by all because of my name,

but whoever endures to the end will be saved."


REFLECTION

Martyrs seem to belong to the times of the early church. Is this true?


Are there martyrs today? Who are they?


In the Basilica of San Bartolomeo in Rome you will find relics of some of our most recent martyrs. You will find the Bible of Shahbaz Bhatti of Pakistan who was shot by terrorists in 2011. There is a letter from Christian de Cherge`, a Trappist Monk killed by terrorists in Algeria in May 1996. The Bible of Evariste Cagorora ,who was killed in a church in Rowanda during the genocide of 1994, is also in the Basilica and there you will find the missal of Archbishop Oscar Romero killed while celebrating Mass in San Salvador in March of 1980.


The Center of the Study of Global Christianity reported that "one million Christian martyrs were killed in the first 10 years of the 21st Century." The advocacy group Open Doors (2022) claims that there are 360 million Christians who suffer "high levels of persecution and discrimination." They also reported that Christians killed for their faith rose to 5, 898 in 2022.


A famous quote by Tertullian is, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Today's martyrs are spreading the faith by their witness to injustice and intolerances to the religious beliefs of others in this world.


According to Pope Benedict XVI in his "exhortation on the Eucharist,'Sacramentum Caritatis', he describes the conversion of the bread and wine to body and blood through the remarkable metaphor of nuclear fission, which he says sets off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world." He also explains that those Christians who "live out the grace of the Eucharist" will strive to bring peace and "reconciliation" in wars and work to change unjust governments or businesses to restore respect for the human dignity of all men.


St. Ignatius of Antioch said, "Martyrdom is a eucharistic act. Like the Eucharist, it entails not only the martyr's death, which his executioners hope will annihilate his efforts, but also transformation." The transformation are the changes that will build the church and bring about changes in political views and changes in the thinking of the present society.


Pope Francis wrote a letter on July 5, 2023 announcing a new Commission of Martyrs. He said, "Martyrs are more numerous in our time than in the first centuries: they are bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, lay people, and families who in different countries of the world, with the gifts of their lives have offered the supreme proof of charity."


There is consolation in their sacrifice. Jesus says, "You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved."


Still we must show our support to our persecuted members.


Pray and offer sacrifices for those who are persecuted and suffer for the faith.

St. Stephen pray for us!



Resources:

PAPA Foundation
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