The Feast of St. Stephen, the First Martyr | iPray with the Gospel
Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
A day after the celebration of Our Lord’s Birth we celebrate the death of the first martyr, St Stephen. He became the first Christian to be killed for his faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus warned his disciples of this persecution. In fact, that is a clear sign that you are on the right path: If you follow in Jesus’ footsteps, you get what He got, and you end up where He ended up. St Stephen gave witness to Jesus, but they didn’t accept his testimony. The Acts of the Apostles tells that they “stopped their ears and rushed upon him” (7:57).
They couldn’t refute anything. They just stopped their ears. But Stephen didn’t compromise the truth. And for that reason he was killed fulfilling the prophecy that we read about in today’s Gospel. They thought they had finished him. However that was just the beginning. Do you remember Saul? Saul was a young man, full of zeal. He helped the executioners stone Stephen to death. Stephen died praying for his murderers.
Saul couldn’t stand that Message; he covered his ears to stop hearing that Truth but the Truth came to him. From Heaven, St Stephen kept doing his job and eventually, the man who had been stoning him became St Paul, the Apostle, the man who changed the history of Christianity and spread that Message, that Truth all over the world. He would in turn also be killed for that same Truth.
Because the transforming work of martyrs doesn’t finish when they die. That’s just the beginning! Mary, Queen of Martyrs, help me to be steady in witnessing to that same Truth, namely, that God became a Man in Bethlehem to die for our sins in Jerusalem.