‘Lord, save me in Your kindness...’
Reflections on the readings for the Feast of St. Stephen (December 26, 2020): ACTS 6:8-10; 7:54-59; PS 31:3-4,6,8,16,17; MT 10:17-22
MISSIO offers “Mission In Scripture” to nurture a missionary heart, providing reflections on the missionary themes in the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
Today’s Psalm reminds us that, like Jesus, Stephen entrusted himself to the Lord’s mercy. “Into Your hands I commend my spirit: you will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God. I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.… Let Your face shine upon Your servant; save me in Your kindness” (Psalm 31:6, 8, 17).
Today we honor the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. He was selected to be among the first seven deacons who were entrusted with offering charitable help to the poor, widows and others dependent on the assistance of the early Church in Jerusalem. He was certainly a man of deep faith and spiritual gifts who shared his belief in Jesus with Jewish leaders and all who would listen to his preaching or engage with him in debate. Eventually, he was charged with blasphemy, but he continued to preach the message of Christ until he was finally dragged to one of the gates of the city. There he was stoned to death. In his last moments, Stephen had a vision of Christ standing at the right hand of the Father and he asked our Lord not to hold this sin against those who murdered him. Today’s Psalm reminds us that, like Jesus, Stephen entrusted himself to the Lord’s mercy. “Into Your hands I commend my spirit: you will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God. I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.… Let Your face shine upon Your servant; save me in Your kindness” (Psalm 31:6, 8, 17).
Among those who witnessed St. Stephen’s execution was Saul, at that time a determined persecutor of the Church, who would eventually become St. Paul. Indeed, he would emulate the devotion of Stephen through his fidelity to Christ shown through his preaching and martyrdom. St. Stephen is also joined in a special way with another saint and martyr, St. Lawrence. The remains of both these great deacons are now interred at the Basilica of St. Lawrence outside the Walls in Rome. The Church honors St. Stephen as the patron of deacons.
Suggested missionary action: Let us ask St. Stephen to guide us in leading a life of faith and courage by entrusting ourselves entirely to the will of God. We can also ask him to help us imitate Christ in all we say and do.
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