“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)
Reflections on the readings for the Feast of St. Stephen (December 26, 2022): 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.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells His disciples they must be ready to suffer for their faith in Him, just as He told them that He would suffer for the world. Knowing that even the most loyal might not be ready to face such a situation, He offers them comfort...
On this day after we joyfully celebrated the Nativity of the Christ Child, we put aside the liturgical color of pure white for the bright red of blood and martyrdom. We are recalled to the harsh truth that Jesus died for our sake -- and that many since then have laid down their lives for the sake of our Redeemer and the Kingdom of God. We are introduced to St. Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles when he is selected to be one of the first seven of those we now call deacons. The Apostles recognized the need for some people to be dedicated to tending the welfare of widows and others. In particular, Greek-speaking converts from Judaism had apparently been neglected. As a Jew who spoke Greek and one was known for being filled with the Spirit and for his fidelity to Christ, Stephen was an obvious choice. But it’s clear that Stephen had a desire to share the word of Jesus with others through preaching and by engaging in debate. His skill and wisdom angered a number of Jewish leaders. They said he had blasphemed against God. In a long speech, Stephen turns this accusation against those who reproached him. They become enraged, drove him out of Jerusalem, and stoned him to death.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells His disciples they must be ready to suffer for their faith in Him, just as He told them that He would suffer for the world. Knowing that even the most loyal might not be ready to face such a situation, He offers them comfort: “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. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. … Whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:19-20,22). St. Stephen, the Church’s first martyr, certainly opened himself to the Holy Spirit. He not only has a vision of Christ but forgave his murderers. It’s no wonder that through the centuries, St. Stephen has been a model for all facing martyrdom.
Suggested missionary action: As we honor St. Stephen today, let us ask his intercession for missionaries and all who proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We can especially pray for the welfare of Christians around the world who are still persecuted for their belief in Christ. May they -- and all of us -- remain strong in our faith every day.