Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.
When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven
and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said,
“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,
and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Merry Christmas to you and your families. May your hearts be opened wide to receive the grace and peace of Jesus Christ during this special time of year.
On this day after Christmas the Church celebrates St. Stephen, the first martyr. Why would we celebrate the first martyr the day after Christmas? First of all, martyr means witness. Stephen was a deacon the Church, ordained to serve the community. He was so convinced of the truth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God born in Bethlehem, who died on the cross for the salvation of the world. Maybe the Church wants to point out from the very beginning people were so convinced of this truth of Christmas that they gave their very lives.
But let’s look at this reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen was “filled with grace and power” and worked powerful signs among the people. The Lord gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit because He wanted to continue His work in the world. Read the Acts of the Apostles to see how powerfully the Holy Spirit worked through the disciples. The Lord wants to use you and me to do powerful things in this world?
Do you believe that the Lord can use you in powerful ways?
How open are you to the Holy Spirit working in and through you?
Stephen not only worked wonders but his knowledge and wisdom baffled all of the religious leaders who came to debate with him. They got so angry. Why? Maybe he was calling them to change their lives. Maybe they had to confront the fact that what they based their lives upon was wrong. Maybe their pride would not allow them to admit they were wrong.
The same things happens in our world today. When we preach and teach the truth about Jesus Christ and His Church, people are going to become angry for the same reasons. We are going to face opposition, anger and hatred. In fact, in the Gospel for today Jesus says, “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)
Am I prepared to face opposition and hatred on the account of Jesus?
What did Stephen do in the face of the opposition? He kept his eyes focused on heaven and the victory that Jesus had already won. He didn’t fight back. He preached the truth out of love and accepted their response, much like Jesus Himself did.
Do I believe that Jesus has already won the victory?
Am I able to focus on Jesus and heaven when I am being attacked?
Finally, I was struck by what the men did who stoned Stephen. They “covered their ears”. They were not open to the message of Jesus. We cannot control how people react to the Gospel. However, I recommend that we pray that the hearts of all will be converted to Jesus before we speak the truth to them. Speak to God about man before speaking to man about God. Many people have their ears and hearts closed to Jesus, but prayer and God’s grace can move mountains.