December 26, 2018


December 26, 2018:  St. Stephen, 1st Martyr

See 18 connections with today?
Legend below
  • 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 Angelus
Forgiveness broadens the heart, generates sharing, and gives serenity and peace.  The contrast between the joyful birth of the Child and the cruelty of Stephen’s martyrdom is not strange; the Child is the Son of God who will save humanity by dying on the cross.  Stephen was the first person to follow in Jesus’ footsteps through martyrdom, entrusting his life to God and forgiving his persecutors.  As he was stoned, he displayed an attitude of faithful acceptance.  Trust in God helps us to welcome difficult moments and live them as an opportunity for growth in faith and building new relationships.
Stephen also imitated Jesus with an attitude of forgiveness, praying for his persecutors.  We're called to learn from his example to forgive always.  The logic of forgiveness and mercy opens up horizons of hope.  Forgiveness is cultivated through prayer, which allows us to keep our gaze upon Jesus.  Stephen could forgive his killers because, full of the Spirit, God opened his eyes.  Prayer gave him the strength to suffer martyrdom.  Holy Spirit, give us strength to heal our fears, weaknesses, and small-mindedness.

  • 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.
  • Creighton:  Today's liturgy helps us interpret how the Church understands the Incarnation and its consequences.  The Christian Tradition recognizes that God became human so that we may become divine in God (not on our own terms).  God creates human beings to be sacraments of the divine.  But because we're created in God's image, we have freedom to choose away from God’s desires.  When we do what God wants, we encounter God's light, see God around around us, are happy, and can serve those who suffer and are lost, but those who want to be god on their own terms seek to destroy us.  Today's readings invite us to enter into Christmas, God’s becoming fully human, so we may become all God intends us to be, agents of God’s presence in the world, participants in Christ, moved by his Spirit to effect justice and reconciliation through practicing mercy.  May your eyes be on Christ even when stones fall.
  • One Bread, One Body:  "Do you hear what I hear?"  Persecution is a consequence of worshiping Christ as Ruler and Lord.  Bowing before the manger leads to lying exposed before the cross.  When Stephen was persecuted, he fixed his eyes on Jesus.  Isaiah prophesied that a Child would lead us. May we follow that Child....
  • Passionist:  The St. Stephen story stands in stark contrast to yesterday's readings about angels singing and shepherds heading to the manger.  People rejected Stephen for working wonders and signs; wanting no part of what he was saying, they stoned him.  There's much we don’t want to hear, either, but Jesus came to take upon himself all that's broken, sinful, and shameful.  His Passion contains our passions.  May we take all that weighs us down and place it at the manger....
  •  "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.
Dress legend
  • 'Owl' tie pin:  Debaters couldn't withstand Stephen's wisdom (1st reading)
  • 'Car with mouth' pin:  They ground their teeth at Stephen (1st reading)
  • 'Feet' pin:  Witnesses laid their cloaks down at Saul's feet (1st reading)
  • Red shirt, 'blood drop' pin:  Stephen's martyrdom (1st reading)
  • '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); you'll be 'hand'ed over... as a witness (gospel)
  • 'Helm' tie pin:  You will lead and guide me (psalm)
  • 'Musical notes with "joy"' pin:  I'll rejoice and be glad... (psalm)
  • 'Boundless mercy' pin:  ...because of your mercy (psalm)
  • 'Happy birthday, Jesus' and No-L pin (legend):  Christmas season
  • Tie with Christmas music:  Christmas time, plus tonight's sing-along Messiah at private home, complete with full orchestra

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