To Know Glory And Pain

26 Dec

“You desire that which exceeds my humble powers, but I trust in the compassion and mercy of the All-powerful God.” ~ Attributed to St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr

Why is it appropriate to celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, the Church’s first martyr, the day after Christmas? Shouldn’t we be celebrating Jesus’ birthday? Isn’t there some celebration that we can involve ourselves in? That’s what I thought as a youngster. To be honest, I often ask the same questions today.

Some of the feasts after Christmas, especially St. Stephen and the Feast of the Holy Innocents, remind us of a stark reality: while Jesus may have come to save the world, a large part of the world does not care about Him or His reign. Instead, the world has rejected the Lord and the people of the world often engage in violence both against God and His Kingdom as well as the people of God’s Kingdom.

Stephen was martyred because he dared to speak out about Jesus Christ. He believed in Jesus and, right before he was stoned to death, he saw a vision of Jesus in the clouds above. He stated what he saw and that incited the crowd to kill him. As he lay dying, he could be heard echoing the words of Jesus, asking God not to hold the actions of the crowd against them. He prayed for them to be forgiven.

The Holy Innocents were martyred long before they could even hear about God. Herod had ordered the murder of boys in his district two years old and younger all in the hopes that the new-born King, of whom Herod had heard so much, would be one of the number killed. Jesus was saved, however, because an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and instructed Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt.

As we celebrate Christmas Joy today, we realize that joy is not a part of everyone’s life around the world. There are many who suffer. There are many who are persecuted. There are many who will die this day. There is pain and anguish and suffering. There are many, in short, who need our prayers.

FAITH ACTION: On this Christmas Monday, pray for those who are persecuted for the sake of the name of Jesus as well as for those who are killed because of their belief in the Lord.