December 26, 2017

Stephen

December 26, 2017:  St. Stephen, First Martyr

  • 'Owl' tie pin:  Debaters couldn't withstand Stephen's wisdom (1st reading)
  • 'Feet' pin (oops, forgot):  Witnesses laid their cloaks down at Saul's feet (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 22-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
Pope Francis

There's a strong link between Jesus' birth and St. Stephen's birth into heaven.  Yesterday we heard, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”  Stephen created a crisis for the leaders of his people because “filled with faith and the Spirit,” he believed and professed God's new presence; he knew Jesus was God's true temple.  But Stephen was accused of preaching the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in saying “Jesus... will destroy this place and subvert the customs Moses handed down.”
Jesus' message discomforts us because it challenges worldly religious power and provokes consciences.  We have to convert and reject thinking like before.  Stephen remained anchored to Jesus' message even to death.  His final prayers—“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”—echo Jesus' on the Cross: “Into Your hands I commend My spirit” and “Father, forgive them....”  Stephen's words were possible only because the Son of God had come, died, and rose for us; before, they were unthinkable.
The risen Christ is the Lord, the sole mediator between God and us, in every moment of life: without him we can do nothing.  Let us say before the Baby Jesus, “Lord, we entrust our spirit to you; receive it,” so we may lead a good life according to the Gospel.  Jesus reconciles us not only with the Father but also with one another.  He is the fount of love, who removes conflict and resentment.  Lord, help us be confident in the Father and love our neighbor and so transform life and make it more beautiful and fruitful.  Full text
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
  • CreightonA deeper meaning of God’s gift in Christ links the promise of joy at his birth with our challenges of advancing God’s will.  Jesus told his disciples to prepare for persecution; he predicted troubles so the challenges would confirm their faith.  He also says who will cause their pain.  Persecutors prey on their own kind, but we must think about how to speak and do well in serving the kingdom, suffering with Jesus when called to.
  • May Stephen's faith, acceptance, and confidence guide us.  The joy Luke proclaims at Jesus' birth is not avoidance of pain, persecution, and suffering but victory over them through Christ's power and grace.
  • One Bread, One Body:  "The relationship":  Babies can be held, seen, heard, touched, and kissed; we can enter into a personal relationship with them.  Jesus' birth made it possible for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and us to become close to him.  Though we can't see, touch, or hear him physically, we can still be close to him.  We can be in him and he in us.  In Holy Communion we can receive him and become one with him.  We can have a relationship with Jesus so deep as to transform us and the world.  The relationship is so powerful that those who live in his love are seen either as the best thing that's happened or as a threat.  Christians are embraced as messengers of life, hope, and light, or they're attacked, persecuted, and killed.  May we love Jesus and live the relationship that rocks the world.
  • Passionist:  The expectation of a child is precious in any family, but the real adventure starts at birth, as the child learning to walk, speak, reason, and develops a personality and talents.  In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Epiphany is more celebrated than Christmas. The Magi represent us who find our way to God in our journeys to and from Bethlehem.  We know little about how the wise men met or how long they journeyed but still celebrate them.  After they present their gifts, they leave, but their journey is just beginning.  Our real journey begins when we encounter Christ. We journey with the Magi to see him and, like them, continue our journey each day in faith....
  • 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.