December 26, 2019


December 26, 2019:  St. Stephen, First 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
The celebration of St. Stephen, stoned to death as he defend his faith, may seem out of place in the midst of Christmas joy, but it's actually in harmony with the meaning of Christmas.  In his martyrdom, love defeats violence; life defeats death.  In his hour of supreme witness, he pardoned his persecutors.

This servant of the Gospel knew how to speak about Jesus in word and his life.  May we learn from him to fix our gaze on Jesus, faithful witness of the Father, and learn that the gaze of heaven is made of love and self-offering.  Stephen’s witness inspires us Christians for whom heaven is no longer far away.  Our Christian communities are called to become more missionary, to evangelize to those living in the margins where there's a strong thirst for hope and salvation.

Today's feast invites us to remember the martyrs of yesterday and today, feel united with them, and ask them for grace to live and die with Jesus’ name in our hearts and lips.  May we live with our gaze on Jesus and become more like him each day.


  • 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:  Stephen wasn’t martyred the day after the nativity but a couple of years after the crucifixion; the feast day is from when his relics were found.  Stephen was a deacon, maybe the first; his preaching was from the Holy Spirit couldn't be refuted. “Don't worry about how to speak or what to say; ...the Spirit of your Father will speak through you.”  Those disputing him were furious because they couldn't withstand his wisdom.  They stoned him, calling his vision of Jesus at God's right hand blasphemy, but he forgave them and commended his spirit to the Lord.

  • Stephen’s dying charity has encouraged faith and charity around the world:  Wenceslaus went out on the feast of Stephen to deliver food and fuel; the song ends, “You who will now bless the poor will yourselves find blessing.”  Today, Boxing day in the UK and Wren Day in Europe, people give a gift to those who have served them during the year, and boys go house to house giving wren feathers for good luck....
  • One Bread, One Body:  "War on the world":   Why recall the brutal murder of Stephen at Christmas time?  The original purpose of Christmas was to challenge lifestyles by trying to ruin the pagans' festivities.  The Romans' sun-god festival was December 25 long before before 336, when Christians started to celebrate Christmas. Christians scheduled their celebrations to conflict with pagan festivities, making enemies by breaking up their parties and stepping on toes of business people who made money from pagan festivities. "All will hate you" on account of Jesus, "but whoever holds out till the end will escape death."
  • Passionist:  Mary and Joseph had to be wondering, perhaps anxiously, what to do now that they had a baby and the kings, shepherds, and angels had left.  As for them, what the birth means to us can only be unfolded one step, one event, one decision at a time.  Christmas only begins with Jesus' birth; we need to find it in our daily life.
  •  "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 (which I have to miss this year)

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