Read Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59, Ps. 31:3-4,6,8,16-17, Matthew 10:17-22

“But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55-56)  

Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and all will hate you for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:21-22) Why are we celebrating the feast of St. Stephen, the Martyr, just one day after Christmas?

Today’s morning prayer answers: “Grant Lord, we pray that we may imitate what we worship, and so learn to love even our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray for his persecutors.” That is to say, today, we are celebrating the heavenly birthday of St. Stephen even while celebrating Jesus’ earthly birthday.

What was Stephen’s offence? A false accusation by persons who tried but could not defeat him in some theological arguments. Stephen’s death was fuelled by envy and jealousy, inspired by lies against him and orchestrated by ignorance from a mob who could not stand it when Stephen revealed his vision of heaven with Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

St. Stephen is special because his heart was not filled with bitterness even while he was being stoned. Stephen prayed for his persecutors just like Jesus said: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

Our celebration of St. Stephen today reminds us that Christmas is not all about eating and drinking. It is a celebration of the SACRIFICIAL LOVE of God for us. If God so loved us, we must love one another. If God so loved us even when we were His enemies, we must love our enemies and pray for them.

In our Gospel passage today, Jesus says: “Beware of men…” Jesus is not saying we should avoid all human company. Rather, He wants us to be wise in our dealings with others. Remember that those who orchestrated Stephen’s death were his friends – fellow Jews who studied the scriptures with him. Indeed, we can never be too careful. We must be prayerful. Only God knows the minds of our friends.

Jesus warns of wars and persecution in the last days but concludes hopeful: “He who endures to the end will be saved.” There would be tough times. However, like Stephen, be bold enough to stand your ground. Do not water down the truth in the name of being politically correct or diplomatic.
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, grant me the courage of Saint Stephen. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Saint Stephen was the first martyr. Feast. Bible Study: Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59, Ps. 31:3-4,6,8,16-17, Matthew 10:17-22)

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu