But [Stephen], filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven
and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said,
“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,
and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:55-59)
There are many people who, the day after Christmas, take down their decorations because “Christmas is over”. It seems that even radio stations that play Christmas music beginning with Halloween do the same thing. The day after Christmas, their format reverts to whatever kind of music they usually play.
You would think that the Church has just done the same thing. After all, yesterday we celebrated the birth of Jesus. Today, it’s all blood and guts — the martyrdom of St. Stephen. What gives?
If you remember, there is a place in the Gospels where Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace but division. Because of His messages people, families even, would be divided against one another. Some would believe in the Lord and others would reject Him. Because of that division, some lives would even be lost.
Today, on the feast of St. Stephen, we recall our first martyr. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and said things that greatly disturbed unbelievers. He continually told them of their need for repentance. He told them about Jesus, a name that was not welcome by many. He told them of Jesus’ death and resurrection. His proclamations were extremely annoying to others.
Then, in the eyes of many, he appeared to blaspheme. He told the crowds that He saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. The crowd put him to death for his proclamation of faith.
In the midst of the Octave of Christmas, yes, the very day after Christmas, we are reminded that our faith is not welcome by all and may even cause us to be ridiculed, harmed, or killed. Yet, the faith must be proclaimed. Some would want to believe that the birth of Jesus never took place. Some would want to propose that Jesus was nothing more than another human, certainly not the Son of God.
We believe that God came to us as a human being on Christmas morn and continue celebrating the joy of that event, allowing it to fuel our lives for the times that others may reject us.
FAITH ACTION: Pray for those who undergo persecution for the sake of the name of Jesus.