The First Martyr + Saint Stephen

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On the second day of Christmas the Church reminds us that worshipping at the crib of the newborn Christ has its dangers.  We must witness to our faith in a world that doesn’t really understand what we are about and which opposes our values.  The first martyr, Saint Stephen, witnessed to Christ by the shedding of his blood.  May we follow his example and be courageous in witnessing to Christ and the teachings of his Church.  This Mass is offered for members of the Archconfraternity of Saint Stephen, living and dead.

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At first glance, one might be tempted to think that Saint Stephen’s life was pointless.  He had worked so hard for the Gospel, and yet his enemies prevailed.  Sometimes, God’s greatest servants are cut down before their time—or so it seems.  But the ways of God are too complex for us to grasp and understand.  For example, one remote consequence of Stephen’s death was the conversion of Saint Paul.  But was Paul converted solely because he saw how Stephen had died?  Perhaps not, but it was one of many extraordinary events that Paul witnessed—all of which testified to the power of the Gospel and it helped prepare him for his own life changing encounter with Jesus.

A word spoken, the witness given, a gesture of kindness, all of these can have the effect of a pebble dropped in a pond that sends out ripples far and wide.  In this instance, it wasn’t really Stephen’s witness that began the ripples.  His decision to forgive his killers was the fruit of the birth of a baby in a stable in Bethlehem years earlier.  Our Lord’s Incarnation was the pebble dropped in the pond which is still sending out ripples today, affecting the entire world.

The call to witness to Christ and to evangelize can be intimidating.  At times we can think that it all depends upon us.  Now while we should always be alert to the testimony that our lives give to Christ, at the same time we should remember that the Holy Spirit is in control.  We are just one of the many effects of the God who became a man—one of many ripples in the pond.  Like Saint Stephen, we may be just one person in a series of many whom the Holy Spirit will use to bring others to Christ.

Saint Stephen, pray for us.

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