Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59, Matthew 10:17-22
Saint Stephen is the first disciple of Jesus Christ to suffer martyrdom. It looks out of order to celebrate martyrdom when we are already immersed in the joyful moments of Christmas. In the midst of the joyful mood of the season, hence comes the celebration of the shedding of blood for the same Jesus. This seems out of place but it is a great message.
The Church deems it wise to celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen just a day after the celebration of Christmas. This is to remind us of what Jesus comes to do. It also reminds us of what it truly means to accept Jesus’ coming in the life of a follower. The celebration of Christmas is beyond the normal decorations, beautifying of houses, buying new clothes etc. It comes with a message to open our hearts for He who has come to dwell in our midst.
Relationship With The Holy Spirit
Saint Stephen is one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:1-15), chosen to serve the people. The deacons selected were to be men who are full of wisdom and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:1-7). The first reading indicates Saint Stephen as one who is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and grace of God. This is the reason he was able to work great wonders. In the gospel, Jesus assures His followers of the same Spirit whenever they face persecution. In essence, every follower of Jesus needs the Holy Spirit to be effective in the ministry. To truly accept Jesus is a call to an intimate relationship with the Spirit of God.
Ready to face the Worst
The feast today is a reminder that to truly accept Jesus into our hearts is a decision to stand strong despite whatever that comes against us. When Saint Stephen was attacked, he would have cursed, blamed or insult God for allowing him to pass through such experience despite His service all these years. If we are St. Stephen, we would begin to remind God how we have been so faithful, fasted, prayed and gave alms and yet He keeps quiet. St. Stephen would have seen God as one who does not answer prayers. Instead of doing this, Stephen commends his spirit in the Hands of God. This is a call not to lose our faith even when we face the worst.
Suffering is part of the Call
In the gospel, Jesus reminds His followers that they must suffer persecutions and betrayals in the hands of the leaders and relations. Today, the church presents the death of St. Stephen as a way to remind us that to truly accept the newborn child is a decision to be prepared to face anything. The joyful moments of Christmas can make us forget that Christianity is not only for the glory part of it. There is also the suffering part of it. So we have to stand firm when people talk against us and make a mockery of our faith, and when we face betrayal and persecutions even from the people we least expect. Today reminds us that as we celebrate and dance, let us not lose sight of the cost of being a follower of Jesus.
The Joy of Serving God
The joy of serving God is not an ordinary fanfare, it is not an emotional encounter, it goes beyond these. It is the equanimity of the soul even in the face of the greatest challenges. This type of peaceful moment can only come from the soul that remains close to God and understands that life is much more than what He sees.
So to truly accept Jesus, never allow anything to make us lose our faith. It is a decision to be like St. Stephen and commend every situation, circumstance and whatever we are passing through in the hands of God. This type of life is what we pray for in this Christmas season.
May God bless you dearest and help us to truly understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. May He give us strength even in the midst of challenges Amen.
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