Dec. 26 - Feast of St. Stephen, First Martyr
December 26, 2017
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr.
In the first reading from Acts of the Apostles, we see the story of Stephen’s martyrdom. Stephen was "working great wonders and signs among the people." People came to debate him, but he was able to stand up for and defend the faith. Yet when he proclaimed that he could see Jesus standing at the right hand of God, they threw him out of the city and stoned him.
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples, “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” St. Stephen certainly was saved.
Remember, at any time, Stephen could have backed down. But he didn’t. St. Stephen shows us the first example of enduring to the end – the ultimate end.
The story of St. Stephen always makes us wonder if we would do the same thing.
There are times when so many of us back down from our faith in the face of far less daunting circumstances. Maybe we back down out of fear - fear of embarrassment, fear of being ridiculed, fear of not being accepted. Maybe we back down because we don't know what to say or how to defend our faith. Maybe we back down because we don't want to upset or offend others.
There have been countless martyrs in the history of Christianity. Men and women who shed their blood and gave their lives because they would not renounce Christ Jesus.
Our faith calls us to do the same - to evangelize and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. Jesus himself warned us that it would be a difficult task.
But we do not do it alone.
As the Church, the Body of Christ, we are surrounded by holy men and women seeking to bring God's love to the world today. We have the example of people like Pope Francis, who speaks the truth of the Gospels to all people regardless of their own faith or beliefs.
And let's not forget that we also have the saints and angels in heaven praying for us.
In St. Stephen, we see a man that faced the ultimate test of faith and was able to "endure to the end." May God give us that same spirit, that we would never back down from proclaiming Christ.