December 26, 2016

Stephen

December 26, 2016:  St. Stephen, First Martyr

  • 'Owl' tie pin:  Debaters couldn't withstand Stephen's wisdom (1st reading)
  • Red shirt, 'blood drop' pin:  Stephen's martyrdom 
  • 'Dove' pin:  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)
  • 'Hands' pin:  Stephen saw the Son of Man at God's right hand (1st reading); into Your hands I commend my spirit (psalm); people will hand you over... (gospel)
  • Tie with Christmas music:  Christmas time, plus tonight's sing-along Messiah at private home, complete with 20-piece orchestra
Listen

  • Look it up/ Presley, Orrall:  country song with verse about how hard it is for us to forgive ("Jesus has [forgiveness] in store for you, but I don't...")  This Bailey/Lowe cover avoids the original's bad language.  lyrics+ (1st reading:  Stephen forgave his murderers)
For Psalm 31
For Chanukah (which continues through Sunday)
Pope Francis Angelus
Christmas joy fills our hearts as we celebrate Stephen's martyrdom.  Receive the witness he left, the testimony that made his sacrifice glorious.  Jesus forewarns his disciples they'll be rejected and persecuted.  The world hates Christians for the reason it hated Jesus:  he brought God's light, but the world prefers darkness to hide its works.  Gospel and world mindsets are in conflict.  To follow Jesus means to follow his light and abandon the world's darkness.
Spirit-filled Stephen was stoned because he confessed his faith in Christ, who invites every believer to choose light and life.  Loving and obeying the Lord, Deacon Stephen chose Christ.  By choosing truth, he became victim of the evil in the world but triumphed in Christ!  Today too Christians are persecuted and martyred, more than in the first centuries.  So many suffer abuse, violence, and hate for Jesus’ sake!  Think about them and be close to them with affection, prayer and tears.  Make space for the Son of God; renew your willingness to follow him faithfully, living the Gospel.  May Mary, Queen of Martyrs, guide and sustain us in our journey of following Christ, faithful Witness of the Father.
Read

  • Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59  Many couldn't withstand Stephen's wisdom; they 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:  Stephen was a deacon in the Jerusalem church.  Jesus said the time would come when his disciples would be called to give witness ('martyr') before the authorities. A martyr witnesses even unto death.  “Brother will hand over brother to death, and father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.  Beware of men.”  Others will persecute you, including relatives, maybe with snarky comments or exclusion.  “Whoever endures will be saved.”  Living for Christ is a marathon.  Don't worry about what to say when called to give witness; the Spirit will speak through you.  Spirit-filled Stephen demonstrated this:  the debaters couldn't withstand his wisdom and spirit.  Since debates against the Spirit fail and so they couldn't refute Stephen, they killed him.  He endured, keeping his focus on Jesus, seeing him at God's right hand and asking him to receive him.  May we trust more in the Spirit's work than our own.  St. Stephen, pray for us.
      Martyrdom of St. Stephen/ Vasari
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Running from Love?"  Maybe people go overboard at Christmas, absorbing themselves with material things, because they're afraid of the true meaning of Christmas, God becoming man so we could have a deep, personal relationship with him.  A deep love for the Crucified results in being persecuted with and for him, living and dying like Stephen, suffering or even dying for Christ.  We run from true love; it hurts so much it becomes a sharing in Calvary.  May we put aside our distractions and allow ourselves to fall into the hands of God, Love himself.
    • Passionist:  We can lose track that the Christmas Season lasts two more weeks and just focus on the New Year.  For some Santa Claus has overtaken the Nativity, focusing on gifts and unwrapping over the Gift that can never really be unwrapped.  What difference does the Gift make in my life?
    • DailyScripture.net:  "Those who endure will be saved":  The Son of God took flesh to redeem us and give us new life as God's adopted children.  The way to glory in the kingdom is the cross.  To share in Jesus' glory, we must take up our cross and follow him.  Our privilege is to follow in the footsteps of him who died for us. The Lord gives us grace to follow him and bear our cross with courage and hope.
    • Universalis:  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 also New Advent.