Friday, December 26 ~ Second Day in the Octave of Christmas
Feast of Saint Stephen, Martyr
Holy Gospel: Matthew 10:17-22 Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. 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. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”
Meditation: What is the connection between Bethlehem and Calvary – the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and his passion and death on a cross? The very reason the Son of God took on flesh and became a man for our sake was to redeem us from slavery to sin and death and to give us new life as the adopted children of God. The way to glory in the kingdom of God is through the cross. If we want to share in Jesus’ glory, then we, too, must take up our cross each day and follow in his footsteps. Jesus never hesitated to tell his disciples what they might expect if they followed him. Here Jesus says to his disciples: This is my task for you at its grimmest and worst; do you accept it? This is not the world’s way of offering a job. This is not the message we prefer to hear when the Lord commissions us in his service. Nonetheless, our privilege is to follow in the footsteps of the Master who laid down his life for us. The Lord gives us sufficient grace to follow him and to bear our cross with courage and hope. Do you know the joy and victory of the cross of Jesus Christ?
Prayer: 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 know how to pray even for his persecutors. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: Today’s Gospel is tied into this scene we leave with Stephen’s death as Jesus tells us to beware of men who will hand you over to courts, governors and kings for His sake. Then he says “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” (Matthew 10:19). Reading these words makes one recall the words that Stephen spoke on his death bed. Witnesses say he was radiating. It is this model of our saints that can be somewhat frightening to imagine. Could we possibly endure this pain and suffering because of our Faith? The Gospel suggests that Stephen might have been removed from the pain and suffering because he put his trust in the Lord; we cannot know for certain. His consent to allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in him was a good indication of the strength of his prayer life. So, just one day past the celebration of Christ’s Birth, we are reminded why Jesus came. Let us pray for strength for the journey. We do not know that we may be called upon to defend our Faith; as was passed on by Saint Stephen. As he was able, let us also be ready to receive our instruction. If we are listeners of the Word, we can be doers of the Word as well. Jesus said “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
Scripture passages (NAB translation) courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Daily meditations and contemplations adapted from the Irish Jesuits’ Sacred Space web page and Biblical Medications for Advent
by Rev. Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P.; prayers are from The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing, 2011;
information about saints, solemnities, feasts and memorials courtesy of the Catholic Culture web site.