Octave of Christmas (26th December, 2018)
Feast of St. Stephen
First Reading: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59 (Lord Jesus, receive my spirit)
Gospel: Mt 10:17-22 (Everyone will hate you because of me)
We just celebrated the birth of Christ joyously. The season of advent accompanied by prayer and charity culminated in remembering his birth with grateful hearts. Soon after the glorious moments of yesterday’s celebration which is still in our mind and heart, today we are invited to celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, the first among those chosen by the apostles.
The central theme of Christmas, as we know, is “God with us”. This is both consoling as well as encouraging message for us. It is consoling because whatever our earthly life may be both in sad and happy moments of life, God is with us. It is as the book of Habakkuk would say, “Though the fig tree does not blossom and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab 3:17-18). It is a call for us to be content with our life because God is with us. It is also an encouraging message for us. For, as He is with us, we can face any bad and adverse situation in His name.
This is the message St. Stephen gives us in our life. In fact, we find that he was chosen not to be a preacher or a miracle worker but to take care of the food distribution. The Acts of the Apostles has many praises as it says, “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Act 7:54-56) ”. We can bear two lessons from him. The first is that the reason for his choice was because he was full of Holy Spirit and yet he was content to do the ordinary course of works he was entrusted with. Secondly although he was subjected to the severest punishment one can receive for the sake of the Gospel, he was glad to receive it and true to being the disciple of Jesus, he surrenders his spirit to the Lord and had the courage and mind to forgive the enemies As He says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them (AA 7:59-60). His life has become a great model for to follow. God entrusts us with various apostolate to carry out. We need to examine ourselves to see if we are looking for a greater engagement where personal ends will be met with or happy to do any apostolate in His name and for his people. The second question is if we are ready to forgive the enemies who torture us for the Gospel we are preaching and the mission we are carrying out. Amen.