Today we celebrate the first Christian Martyr, Stephen. Stephen was one of the first 7 deacons of the Church, and possibly the youngest. We are not told his age, except that he was young.
Stephen spoke and lead with great wisdom. We are told that his opponents could not refute his testimony of Jesus, so they accused him of blasphemy and sentenced him to death on the spot by stoning.
It further says, even his opponents saw the radiance of his face as that of an Angel and his words were powerful.
As Stephen was dying we are told he cried out “receive my spirit” as well as “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”.
Stephen was the first martyr and follower of Jesus who prayed for his persecutors as they were killing him; exactly as Jesus did while He was dying on the Cross.
Another young man was partaking in and consenting to Stephen’s death. His name was Saul, of Tarsus, who would later become the great Apostle and greatest evangelizer of the Christian faith, Paul.
What a juxtaposition in many ways today is. The Church purposely and purposefully places the feast of St. Stephen, the Church’s first martyr on the day after CHRISTmas.
We have just completed the great and holy season of Advent. A season of Hope and the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year.
We celebrated CHRISTmas yesterday. A great feast commemorating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the Incarnation! We gathered with family and friends to celebrate the gift of each other in our lives.
Now, today, the day after CHRISTmas, we have this sobering reminder of our mortality, and the danger of following Jesus!
In addition, we have a scene that includes the first Christian martyr and a man in Saul, who hates Christians, and is persecuting and killing them; However, today, December 26, 2015 some 2000 years after this scene we commemorate today, what has changed?
Yet, think about this, Saul, the hater, became Paul, the lover. Saul, Stephen’s murderer, is now Paul, Stephen’s brother, and they stand side by side in the Kingdom of God as brothers.
WOW! This is combustible and how do we interpret this today? I ask you to read, meditate and contemplate this passage today in the spirit of Lectio Divina (Divine reading – oratio, meditatio, contemplatio).
Only forgiveness, mercy and LOVE conquer all!!!
“What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life”?
May God bless you and hold you in the palm of His hand!
The author of this article is Mr. Charles A. DeFeo, O.P.