December 26, 2022
We have just celebrated the joyful celebration of Christmas yesterday. We rejoiced in the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Today, the joyful spirit is shifted to the tragic stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. What a big shift! Why is this celebration placed at the heart of the Christmas season?
This might be anti-climatic at first glance, but if we go deeper, we can see the connection between the martyrdom of Stephen and the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The birth of our Savior demands a new life from us. We are invited to go beyond our self-preoccupation, self-glorification, and self-centeredness. The birth of Jesus reminds us that life is not about us, but it’s about OTHERS, it’s about Jesus. His birth ushers us to a new way of living our lives in His likeness.
St. Stephen goes beyond SELF by offering his life for Jesus. He is so convinced that the way of Jesus, the truth of Jesus, and the life of Jesus are worth emulating. He submitted himself to the power of the Holy Spirit so that he can be given the courage to go beyond himself and live his life as a courageous witness of our Savior. The first reading today reminds us that, “Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people… they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.” They were infuriated and stoned him to death.
St. Stephen embraced pain and suffering and shed his blood so that his blood will become the source of courage and inspiration for others to emulate. His life was his special gift to the newborn king, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. What an offering and what a fitting gift for our Savior.
As Christians, we are invited to be steadfast in our faith and courageous enough to speak for the truth, side for the truth, and spread the truth even in this society that spreads false information and distorted truths. We are invited to care for the least, the lost, and the last of our society…to go to the peripheries as Pope Francis constantly reminds us. Indeed, we need the courage to offer our life for Jesus. Our human tendency is to be afraid and sulk in our indifference. The gospel today reminds us, “when they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what 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.”
Let us show one another the way of Christ, His way of selfless offering of oneself for others so that others will be saved. St. Stephen, pray for us, help us to become like you, a courageous witness of our Savior Jesus Christ. Help us to die from our self-centeredness, so that Jesus will become our center instead. Amen.
What fitting gift can I give to the Lord?