December 26 – St. Stephen

Matt 10:17-22

Coming Persecution

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

There is a certain kind of prayer which is often heard. God cannot seem to resist granting this request. It is that which issued from the Cross: “”Father, forgive them, they know what they do!” Down through the ages, from St. Stephen, whose feats we commemorate today, to the martyrs of recent years, like St. Charles Lwanga and Blessed Miguel Pro, their single common plea was that of forgiveness for their oppressors.

The Lord assured his disciples: “When the hour (of persecution) comes, you will be given what you are to say. The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.” Is it any wonder that only love and forgiveness issued from the lips of the martyrs? After all, it was the Spirit of God who spoke at them. To forgive is utterly impossible for us. Only through God’s grace can we offer no resistance to injury and can we bless our persecutors! It is therefore fitting that we celebrate today, right after Christmas, the feast of the proto-martyr Stephen who exemplified in his life what the Babe on the manger, the Son of God, has come to bring: LOVING FORGIVENESS. (SSpSAP Bible Diary 2002)

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St. Stephen is the first martyr to die for Jesus. Although he is truly a great saint we might still ask why is his feast celebrated on the day after Christmas. Probably for the simple reason the Church already celebrated his feast on this before December 25 became fixed as the Feast of Christ’s Birth.  It became so much a part of our tradition that the Church never considered moving the feast of St. Stephen to some other day of the year.

Intended or otherwise, we can find much that is appropriate in celebrating the feast of St. Stephen on the day after Christmas. When we are filled with beautiful and, at times, over sentimental thoughts about the crib, we get a sudden reminder of why Jesus came. We see that the crib scene is not just something cute and sweet but the beginning of a life that would end on the Cross. The coming of Jesus is a call to commitment, if need be to the ultimate call of martyrdom.

As the first Christian martyr, Stephen shows us what dying for Christ really means. To truly be a martyr it is not enough to be killed because of Jesus, one must die as Jesus died. Following the example of the Master, Stephen offered his spirit to God and prayed for forgiveness for those who killed him: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” A Christian martyr does not die consumed by hatred and crying for vengeance. His love for Christ overflows to those who persecute him.

As part of the Christmas celebration, St. Stephen shows us that to welcome Jesus is to offer our lives to him. It is a call to conversion, for how can we welcome Jesus without praying for forgiveness and for the power to love and forgive even our enemies? (Fr. John O’Mahony, SVD Bible Diary 2006)

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In an interview with Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun (zenith.org, June 2006), the fearless church leader recalled the many Chinese who were martyred because of Jesus: “Many died in prison, in concentration camps and in forced labor. Many others died of serious sicknesses contracted in prison. There are also those who have survived 20-30 years in prison and tortures; they too are martyrs. There are people who entered a prison or concentration camp when they were already elderly and with ruined health.”

In particular, he mentioned a group of young Chinese, members of the Legion of Mary, “who went to prison in Shanghai in the 50s, that majority laymen rather than priests or nuns, who do not have a family to think about. And yet, I have seen many of them leave the prisons with joy and serenity; a great testimony.” The Church in China relives the suffering of the early Church.

This day after Christmas is set by the Church as the “celebration” of the harrowing death of its first martyr, Stephen. “They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” This murder was even witnessed by the future co-founder of Christianity, Saul/Paul (Acts 7:58).

The reading sets the tone for those who would be following the way of the newborn Son of Mary – martyrdom. Note the similarities between Jesus and Stephen: both were accused of blasphemy; both prayed for their persecutors (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60). The crib foreshadows the cross; Bethlehem leads to Calvary.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus foretells the fate of His followers: “You will be dragged before governors and kings because of me…You will be hated by all because of my name,” (Matt 10:18, 22). The reason for suffering persecutions is very clear – because of Jesus.

Here’s how Tacitus, a Roman historian in the second century A.D. described the persecutions suffered by the early Christians. They were falsely accused of burning Rome (= arson):

“The confessed members of the sect (meaning, the Christians) were arrested. Then on evidence furnished by them a huge multitude was convicted not so much on the count of arson but because of hatred of the human race….They were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night.”

The early Christians who shed their blood for Jesus became literally “the light of the world.” (Fr. Randolf C. Flores, SVD Bible Diary 2007)

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We are still in a festive mood, but today’s readings are shocking: the martyrdom of St. Stephen and Jesus’ warning that those who follow Him would be persecuted. I think it is good that the Church did not move the feast of St. Stephen away from Christmas because I detect a strong message in the combination of the two feasts.

Yesterday we looked at the cute baby Jesus even may have kissed it. The nativity scene and kissing the baby can make us sentimental about why God became a helpless baby. And sentimentality is dangerous for an authentic life of faith! What happened in Bethlehem was far from a sentimental event. Just remember: Mary did not find a place in the inn to give birth. The Son of God was born in a cave and rested on hard straw. Jesus came not to live a comfortable life but to be a servant of humankind. He was ready to suffer, to be persecuted and even murdered. In other words, he made it clear from the first moment in this world that those who decide to follow him had to be ready to face the same fate he experienced.

To commemorate St. Stephen a day after Christmas helps us to become realistic Christians; it helps us not to complain or even accuse God when sufferings come into our lives.

But there is also Good News. Jesus assures us that in those moments the Holy Spirit will help us go through these trials as Stephen experienced. The first reading says that Stephen was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” He even saw heaven open and saw the glory of God. Since Jesus became one of us, we are never alone in carrying our burdens: “I know what you are going through. So don’t give up. I am with you always.” (Fr, Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2008)

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December 26, 2016 Monday

Who is this Jesus whose birthday we just celebrated yesterday? In his notes given to those who took the 2014 Nemi Renewal course, Fr. Dennis McBride, CSsR, wrote: “we learn about Jesus through those who relate to him through other people. The story of Jesus is not just about the action of God, but about human interaction, reaction …We learn about him in the Gospel and … through those who have life in his name.” Our faith in Jesus increases because of people whose lives were influenced by Him. Such is the story of the saint we celebrate today. St. Stephen is one who lived his life for Jesus. His life showed how deeply he was touched by the love of God as revealed by Jesus. So powerful was the influence of this love that he did not give up his faith even to the point of death. He exemplied the gospel reading for today – trusting God so much that he did not worry about what to speak or what to say. He was hated because of Jesus’ name. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord were not just events for Him. He allowed Jesus to be borne in his heart. Thus, he endured to the end. In this Christmas season, let us ask for God’s grace to let Jesus be borne in our hearts. (Fr. Francisco “Kito” Estepa, SVD | HNU, Tagbilaran City, Bohol Bible Diary 2016)

rveritas-asia.org/daily-reflection/1076-december-26-2016-monday

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December 26, 2012

St. Stephen, first martyr
(Feast) RED

Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59
Ps 31
Mt 10:17-22

Mt 10:17-22
Coming Persecutions

[Jesus said to his apostles,] 17“Beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, 18and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. 20For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 22You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

REFLECTION:

The Spirit of your Father speaking through you. St. Stephen is known as the “protomartyr,” the first martyr. From Greek, the word “martyr” means “witness.” A martyr for the faith suffers out of love, to the point of death.

Stephen is stoned to death, the first believer recorded in the Acts of the Apostles to give his life for Jesus. His last two statements are remarkable. First, he forgives his accusers, saying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Stephen has no bitterness, no hatred in his heart, no revenge on his mind. He wishes his persecutors forgiveness and salvation. With God’s grace, we, too, can be martyrs every day, in our own little way—turning hatred into healing, brokenness into blessing, revenge into reparation, and faultfinding into forgiveness.

Second, Stephen places his life in God’s hands as he prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” In the face of death, Stephen calls on God, puts his hope in him, and entrusts everything to him.

As we face our responsibilities, let us not hesitate and be afraid. Like Stephen, let us pray, “Lord, receive the work of our hands.” And in the face of discouragement, let us say, “Lord, receive us.”

The name Stephen means “crown.” Stephen receives the crown of glory by witnessing to Jesus. The same destiny awaits us if we hold on to Jesus.

Let my motto be: “God first!” He has priority. He is number one in my life.

ssp.ph/index.php/online-resources/366-days-with-the-lord/2070-december-26-2012

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Reflection for December 26, Saturday; Saint Stephen the first martyr; Matthew 10:17-22

Reflection: During this season of Christmas we savor the many good things about life. Such as food, gifts and other beautiful things that will satisfy us. But there will come a time that we will be called to live our faith to the fullest. This simply means that we’ll have to witness for our love and faith for Jesus. This witness for Jesus may require us to pass through hard times or it may even require us to even give our very own life.

Saint Stephen the first martyr of the church whose martyrdom we remember today. Is one of those who witnessed for Jesus until the very end of his life. He advanced the faith and did great things in the name of Jesus. But he was eventually savagely killed for witnessing for Jesus.

In this modern time of internet and other modern gadgets we are still called to witness for our faith in Jesus. We are called to use every means available so that Jesus will become more relevant. More relevant in the hearts and minds of the modern people of today most especially the young ones for they are the future of the church.

Have we already witnessed for Jesus? Have we already been persecuted for our love for Jesus? Let us not be disheartened if we’ve been through these tests of faith for these are part and parcel of our witness and discipleship for Jesus. Let us make Jesus more relevant today as what Saint Stephen did during his time. Let us not be afraid of the severe consequences that may befall us.

We have nothing to fear if Jesus is with us. – Marino J. Dasmarinas

mjdasma.blogspot.com/2015/12/reflection-for-december-26-saturday_25.html

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Reflection for Monday December 26, Saint Stephen, first martyr; Matthew 10:17-22

Do you feel persecuted for following Jesus? You are not alone; as you read this many are choosing to die for Jesus Christ than deny Him.

Contrary with those who promise a life of ease and affluence the moment we follow Jesus. Truth to tell is Jesus did not promise us a life of comfort and ease; He promised His constant presence within us amidst the persecution.

So let us continue to become Jesus eyes, ears and hands in this world. Let us radiate Jesus’ light and love no matter the difficulties; let us not be afraid Jesus will always be with us.

Jesus Himself said in the gospel: “Whoever endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22).” – Marino J. Dasmarinas

mjdasma.blogspot.com/2016/12/reflection-for-monday-december-26-saint.html

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ENVY – “But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues.” – Matthew 10:17

Alfred, a colleague of mine, has always been a man of integrity, a sincere, honest and kindhearted person. He looks after everybody’s welfare, being the president of our medical association. But I wonder what it is with him that makes others talk behind his back?

In this world, no matter how good your intentions are, there will always be people who will misconstrue your actions and attach malice to it. There are people who can’t accept inherent goodness and sincerity in others, who grieve over another person’s success and rejoice in their failure. Envy is the name of the game. And there are just a lot of these species out there playing this game. They would do everything to put others down and celebrate their misery.

As long as we do things honestly and sincerely, there’s really nothing to be worried about. After all, God sees what’s in our hearts and our true intentions. And that’s what matters most.Dr. Henry L. Yu (henrio_md@yahoo.com)

Reflection: It is a fact that in this world, we just cannot please everybody. For always, people will have something to say against us and our endeavors.

Father, help us not to mind what people say against us. Instead, overwhelm them with your blessings so they’ll have lots of good things to talk about. Amen.

kerygmafamily.com/modules/dailyreadings/read.php?date=2015-12-26

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ENDURE AND BE SAVED – Persecution in the faith may not be commonplace here in our predominantly Catholic country, but with the coming of the different forms of social communication, we can see how this is gradually changing. More and more people are becoming vocal about their resistance to the norms set to us by the Gospel. Persecution happens when people who choose to adhere to the ideals set by the Gospels are attacked by those who think otherwise. The “enemies” of the Church are always quick to “deliver you over to courts and flog you” simply because you have chosen to remain true to your beliefs that are founded on the principles set by Christ.

It is during this time, more than ever, that we need people like St. Stephen whose feast we celebrate today, who faithfully and without fear proclaimed and professed belief in Christ even if it caused much persecution. All of us are called to this kind of task and there is just so much venue, in the advent of advancement in technology, to realize this.

We can begin by witnessing to Jesus in our posts in our favorite social networking site. We can make our stand on some major  social issues consistent with the teachings of the Church, even if it would mean attracting backlashes from those who look at the church with disdain. The reality of persecution is inevitable. Christ Himself said, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” Anyone whose grip on the faith is loose will easily let go. So let us hold on tightly and learn from the Lord. Be inspired by His  promise that those who will endure to the end will be saved. Fr. Sandy Enhaynes

REFLECTION QUESTION: How do you make a stand for your faith in social media?

I gain confidence through St. Stephen’s example, Lord. Grant me the boldness to stand up for You.

kerygmafamily.com/modules/dailyreadings/read.php?date=2015-12-26

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SEEDS – “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues.” – Matthew 10:17

One headline said, “Thirty Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS.” Another article reported, “Early morning, April 2, Muslim terrorists invaded the campus of Garissa University in eastern Kenya. They came with one intent: to kill Christians.” At least 148 died from that attack.

I read these stories and I could only sigh deeply. How difficult it is to be a Christian in some parts of the world. It’s a life-or-death decision to keep the faith.

I honor these faithful brothers and sisters. While it’s a difficult pill to swallow if you are a family member or a relative of those who were killed, still their passing was not in vain. Like the Christians of old, the sacrifice of their lives because of their faith will not be wasted. As Tertullian, an early Christian author, said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

In that case, the empty pews of Europe are being sown with the blood of our Christian brethren in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Yes, we can hang on to hope for the future of the Church. For Jesus Himself said to Peter, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Joyce Sosoban-Roa (jsosoban@gmail.com)

Reflection: Pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters daily.

Dearest Lord, it is difficult to understand, but I trust that persecution ultimately results in good. Keep our faith always strong. Amen.

kerygmafamily.com/modules/dailyreadings/read.php?date=2016-12-26

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NO TIME FOR HANGOVER – What a celebration after Christmas Day! We have yet to get over our hangover from yesterday’s partying and feasting. But the liturgy of the day and the Gospel lesson already call us to task. The liturgy is not red with the red of Christmas; it is red to honor the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen, the deacon who witnessed to his faith in Jesus to the point of being stoned to death. The Gospel renders us the words of the adult Jesus already teaching about rejection and persecution that His followers should be prepared to face with perseverance and prayer.

When we come to think of everything, the liturgy and the Gospel passage have a point. Life is short for long vacations. We thank God for giving us times and seasons to bond and to enjoy, but these are meant to recharge and jumpstart us to go on. Every single day, every ticking moment counts. Christmas Day reminds us how we are graced. Now we go and let that grace work not just in us, but also to let it shine on others with what we say and do.

In many places in the western world, and even with some families now in our country, they hold what they call a “boxing day.” No, it’s not a day to watch a boxing bout; neither is it a day when a boxing match is done at home. A “boxing day” is a time when family members gather around to open the “boxed” Christmas gifts that each one received from one another and from other people. The gifts that they want, or those they find personally useful, they keep. Those they find beautiful, but they can do without, they put properly into boxes for sharing with others who have a greater need for these things. A simple gesture, yes. But it is a wonderful reminder that our Christmas Day celebration ought to make us witnesses to the God who had made Himself a gift for us. Fr. Domie Guzman, SSP

REFLECTION QUESTIONS: How do you come out of a joyous Christmas holiday? What meaningful, concrete and other-oriented work can you do on this day after Christmas?

Dearest Jesus, help me to follow Your example of giving. Help me to give not only what I don’t need but even that which I treasure most. Amen.

kerygmafamily.com/modules/dailyreadings/read.php?date=2016-12-26

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Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59; Mt 10:17-22

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

Every year just one day after Christmas we celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Stephen. Is it not a bit bizarre to celebrate a death the very next day after celebrating a birth? The truth is that both birth and death are two sides of the same coin. The death of Stephen was his birth to the eternal spiritual world. True Christian life is a life of fearlessness that looks and sees beyond our physical, bodily existence. The birth of Jesus was God’s choice to embrace physical body and death. Through incarnation God opted to die to show us that death is not the end and there is nothing to be afraid of. Through his death and resurrection Jesus demonstrated that death is not the end but the beginning of a new life – the life of the spirit. St Stephen was fully aware and convinced of this truth. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us, “Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people.” People challenged him, “but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.” The narration continues, “When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, 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.” There was a young man standing there as part of the gang that stoned Stephen to death whose name was Saul. While stoning Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’. We know what happened to the spirit that Stephen entrusted Jesus. Jesus handed over that spirit to Saul which transformed Saul into Paul and continued doing miracles! Only body can be killed, spirit cannot be.

In today’s Gospel Jesus reveals the same truth to his disciples: “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. It will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” The birth of Jesus and the death of Stephen remind us the same truth that Spirit of God is made available to us and it is indestructible. Those who are the partakers of that very same Spirit will continue to enkindle this world till the end of time and will bear its light and warmth to the ends of the world. The Spirit that Jesus passed on the Stephen and Stephen passed on to Paul is still active and available to each and every one of us. It is up to us to decide whether to collaborate and get filled with that Spirit of Christ and be a channel of divine purpose. However, keep in mind the words of Jesus, â€œIt will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” To admit and admire this truth we need lots and lots of wisdom and humility. Dr Kurian Perumpallikunnel CMI

navchetana.com/web/homilies.php?date=2015-12-26

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Monday of Christmas Week

26 December 2016

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59; Ps 31: 3cd-4. 6 and 8ab. 16bc and 17; Mt 10: 17-22

Stephen, Protomartyr

Today we celebrate the feast of the first martyr of the Church – St. Stephen. With the martyrdom of Stephen started the long list of martyrs who sacrificed their precious life for the sake of their faith in Jesus. For them the faith was more important than their life.

Many saints wanted to be martyrs for Christ. When St. Theresa of Avila was seven-years-old, she convinced her elder brother that they should “go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there.” They got as far as the road from the city before an uncle found them and brought them back. St. Theresa of Lisieux wanted to go off to the pagan lands and die for Christ. The craving for martyrdom was not limited to Catholic Church alone. The wife of Billy Graham, Ruth Bell when she was a little girl had a passion for martyrdom. She grew up in China, where her parents were missionaries. She used to pray every night that the Lord would let her be a martyr before the end of the year. She wanted bandits to capture and behead her for Jesus’ sake. Her sister, Rosa, used to think, “How horrid!” So every night when Ruth prayed like that, Rosa would pray, “Lord, don’t you listen to her.”

Stephen was picked up as one of the seven men to help distribute food to the Hellenistic widows among the early Christians. His name means, “Victor’s Crown.” Later Stephen started preaching Gospel of the Kingdom of God. He was able to preach to the Hellenistic Jews from the Synagogue of the Freedmen powerfully and courageously. The Freedmen were the descendants of Jewish slaves captured and taken to Rome, by Pompey in 63 B.C. When they were later expelled from Rome, some went to Jerusalem and formed a synagogue there.

Stephen may have been a member of one of these synagogues. The early Christians did not immediately leave the Jewish worship services until they were forced out by persecution. First they tried to refute him by debate. When that didn’t work, they used false witnesses, stirred up the people, and dragged him before the Sanhedrin. They accused him of speaking against the temple. He was filled with the Holy Spirit that people felt that his face was like the face of an angel. He gave the longest speech given by any of the apostles recorded in the Bible before the Sanhedrin. As Stephen spoke, the crowds went wild. All pretenses of “due process” and of a legal trial were swept aside. They dragged him out of the city and stoned him, with the consent and assistance of Saul.

What do we learn from the personality and martyrdom of Stephen? He was a man full of the Holy Spirit. That is required of a missionary to be an effective witness of Christ. So his opponents could not cope with the wisdom and Spirit with which he was speaking. As Jesus had told His disciples, when they would be delivered up before synagogues and rulers, the Holy Spirit would teach them in that very hour what they needed to say (Luke 12:12). The main evidence of being filled with the Spirit is the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). These qualities are not produced overnight but over years of walking in the Spirit. The fullness of the Spirit is a matter of progressive maturity. We have to daily walk in submission to and dependence on the Spirit of God. As we do that, He grows His fruits in our hearts and lives.

Stephen was full of grace. It is evident from his reaction to his persecutors. He had the same prayer of Christ on the Cross, on his lips as he gave up his soul. He did not curse his persecutors as they threw stones to crush his bones, but rather prayed for them, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (7:60). Only a true witness of Christ can imbibe the Christ’s spirit of forgiveness so deep in his life even at the hour of death. His last words as those of his Master were of compassion and forgiveness. And sure I believe this led to the inner conversion of Paul later. What is my attitude to those who are persecuting me in my daily life? How do I respond when people react to me rudely and insult me publicly? Am I able to forgive them from my heart and pray for them?

As Stephen we should be courageous enough to proclaim Jesus wherever possible. Just like him we too should desire to imitate the bold witness of Stephen for the Gospel. He leaves for us an example of powerful witnessing. Also the death scene of Stephen should inspire us. Even at the face of persecution he offered his soul peacefully at the Lord’s feet. We should pray that our death too may be a glimpse of heaven and our thoughts at the time of death should be like Stephen’s, for the salvation of people around us. Let us live in such a way to have a glorious death offering our souls to the Lord. Dr Martin Mallathu CMI

navchetana.com/web/homilies.php?date=2016-12-26

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

FEAST OF ST. STEPHEN, THE FIRST MARTYR – MATEO 10:17-22. UNSA MAY ATONG MAKUHA SA PAGSIMBA UG PAGSUNOD SA DIOS NGA NAGPAKATAWO? Sa unang adlaw human sa kasaulogan sa Pasko, gipasidunggan sa Simbahan si San Esteban, ang pinakaunang martir nga Kristiyano. Si San Esteban magpahinumdum kanato nga ang pagsunod ning Dios nga nahimong tawo dili sayon ug puwede nga magdala kanato sa kamatayon. Si Kristo mismo ang nag-ingon diha sa ebanghelyo, “Pagbantay kamo kay may mga tawo unya nga modakop ug motaral kaninyo.” Kining maong kamatuoran dili angay’ng makadiskurahe o makahadlok kanato. Si San Esteban nagpakita nga kining maong Dios maoy pinakabililhon sa tanan, ug tungod niini, angay natong ihalad ang tibuok tang kinabuhi alang Kaniya. Nindot ang pahinumdum: “It costs to follow Jesus. But it costs more not to.” Posted by Abet Uy

abetuy.blogspot.com/2016/12/feast-of-st-stephen-first-martyr.html

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December 26, 2016

Today’s first reading describes the heroic death of the first martyr or protomartyr, Stephen.

One of the striking things about Stephen is his close resemblance to Jesus. He died as Jesus died, namely, falsely accused of blasphemy (Mt 26:65; Acts 6:11), yet like Jesus he merely spoke the truth. Like Jesus, too, he prayed and recommended his spirit at the moment of his death. And, always like Jesus, he forgave his enemies: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

Another striking thing about this story is the mention of the future apostle Paul (then still called Saul). The text says that the ones stoning Stephen to death “laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul,” and that “Saul was consenting to (Stephen’s) execution” (Acts 7:58; 6:1). It is as if God was already preparing the replacement of Stephen by another intrepid preacher of the Gospel. And, like Stephen, Saul/ Paul will seal his proclamation of Jesus with martyrdom some 30 years later.

Why the feast of a martyr on the day following Christmas? Perhaps to tell us that, if we choose the Baby of Bethlehem, we also choose his Cross…

schoolofthewordonline.com/scriptural-library/daily-gospel/english/item/3745-december-26-2016

 

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See Today’s Readings:  Year I,   Year II

Back to: December 26 (St. Stephen)

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