FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN, THE FIRST MARTYR DECEMBER 26, 2020
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 6:8-10; 7:54-59
Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
“But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.”
Our liturgical Christmas season starts with new life for the world, the birth of Jesus Christ, and quickly moves to sacrificial death with the reading of St. Stephen, the first martyred disciple. The Catholic Church paints this profound picture to ready us in living our lives for Jesus. Have you ever thought, where are you in this picture?
The first reading in Acts shows us an up-close and personal encounter with God working through Stephen. The hard-hearted members of the Synagogue of Freedmen can represent you and me in all the times we reject our Lord, taking him out of our “city”. We don’t like to think that we reject our Lord even for a second, but everyone pushes God away at some point. It is very easy to “cover our ears” and not want to hear the truth, especially when it hurts. It is also easy to “throw stones” at others in anger and leave a part of that person to die.
Sometimes we are like Stephen filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not speak on our own when unexpected words of wisdom can spill out of our mouths. These words are said with courage, so that we are unfazed with repercussions. We can also perform acts of mercy without realizing the power of the deed, bringing Christ to others.
Let us not stand with Saul and watch others try to kill our faith. Pray to endure and remain faithful to God despite trials and hardships, even when others reject us and throw stones at us. In the end, we would all like to see the heavens open up and be able to say, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.”