“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” ~ Tertullian
“Now, why in the world would he be writing about martyrs the day after Christmas?!” That might be a question on many people’s minds today. The answer is quite simple, though. It is because today, the day after Christmas, is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. This week, we actually have the feast of St. Stephen and then, two days later, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, all those infant boys who lost their lives simply because they were born at the same time as Jesus and Herod was trying to rid himself of kingly competition.
The martyrs speak to us of the fact that the faith must be proclaimed to the world even in the midst of hardship, persecution, and, if need be, death. Nothing should stop us from proclaiming the Good News that Jesus Christ brought to us. Not even pain and suffering. Not even death itself.
Stephen was a man who spoke the truth. He knew that it riled the crowds but he spoke it nonetheless. At a public meeting place, Stephen claimed to see Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. This was too much for the crowd. First of all, they had killed Jesus and they did not believe that He had risen from the dead. Second, sitting at the right hand of God was a position of absolute power and, even if Jesus would have been raised from the dead, they would not have believed that He would be sitting at God’s right hand.
They had, of course, missed the fact entirely that Jesus was sitting at God’s right hand because He, Himself, was God. Instead, they went into a frenzy, probably directed by Saul, and attacked Stephen, stoning him to death.
We have been given a responsibility to proclaim the faith that we hold so dear. We celebrated a particular part of that faith — the Incarnation — yesterday at Christmas. We might be asked, at any moment, to forfeit our lives for the sake of the Kingdom. If we do so willingly, we will be incredible witnesses to God.
Death does not matter to us since death is not a reality. The true reality is that death leads to eternal life.
FAITH ACTION: Pray for those who struggle to proclaim the faith, that they have the courage of the martyrs to face whatever comes their way.