December 26, 2014

Stephen

December 26, 2014:  St. Stephen, martyr

  • Red shirt:  Stephen's martyrdom
  • 'Holy Spirit' chain:  Stephen was filled with the Spirit (1st reading); when you're handed over, the Spirit will speak through you (gospel)
  • 'Stone/rock' tie pin:  they stoned Stephen (1st reading); be my rock of refuge (psalm)

Listen

Today we recall St. Stephen's witness.  Chosen by the Apostles, together with six others, for the diaconate of charity, he became the first martyr, offering his life in honor of the King of Kings and so showing us how to live the mystery of Christmas.

In today's gospel Jesus tells his disciples when he sends them out, “All will hate you because of me, but whoever endures will be saved.”  The words strip Christmas of false sweetness, making us understand that in trials, love overcomes violence and life death.  To welcome Jesus and prolong the joy of the Holy Night, we must bear witness in humility, in silent service, without fear of going against the grain.  You may not be called to shed your blood like Stephen, but you're called to live coherent with the faith you profess.  Living the Gospel is demanding, but those who do with fidelity and courage receive God's gift of peace.
Pray for all who are discriminated against because of their witness to Christ.  Pray too that religious liberty will be strengthened throughout the world.  May St. Stephen, Deacon and Protomartyr, sustain us, who hope to be crowned with the Saints.  May he give us Christian coherence:  to think, feel, and live as a Christian, not to think as a Christian and live as a pagan.
Read

Wordle: Readings 12-26-14
  • Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59  Many couldn't withstand Stephen's wisdom and stoned him.  “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
  • Mt 10:17-22  When they hand you over, don't worry; the Spirit will speak through you.   Endure and be saved.

Reflect
    • Creighton:   Luke's story of Stephen's martyrdom draws parallels with Jesus' passion and death:  Both were accused by false witnesses of threatening the temple.  Both were taken out of the city to be killed.  Both surrender their spirit to their Lord.  Both forgive their killers and pray that God forgive them.  The parallels help us understand that Jesus' followers will imitate his life, death, and resurrection.
    • One Bread One Body:  St. Stephen was the first witness to give his life for Jesus the faithful Witness.  Witnessing is communicating a personal experience of Jesus.  Stephen was a witness because he saw Jesus at the Father's right hand and proclaimed it to the crowd.  Witnesses share from their personal experience of revelation from Christ.  Witnessing is in the context of a trial; 'courts' are at work, in politics, social events, entertainment, media, and even church.
    • Passionist:  "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit" applies to St. Stephen as well as Jesus.  Also, Jesus is placed into our hands, entrusted to us, his life and mission given to us.  We're called to protect and care for him and his mission, to nurture his life given to us, and to pass him on.  Hold the child.
    • DailyScripture.net:  Our privilege is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who laid down his life for us.  He gives us grace to follow him and bear our cross with courage and hope.
    • Universalis:  St. Stephen, first Martyr, Apostles-appointed deacon organized food distribution to the poor performed miracles, confounded Jews in debate, preached Christ to and prayed for persecutors; see Catholic Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.