The Feast of St. Stephen

Matthew 10: 17-22
Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59 / Ps 31: 3-4. 6, 8, 16- 17

Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at the moment what you are to say.
(Matthew 10:19)

Like Stephen, who was guided by love,
Do not be fazed by trials, my friend.
The Spirit’s gifts will come from above
To help us persevere till the end.

“Beware of people; for they will hand you over to courts, and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the pagans. When they deliver you up, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at the moment what you are to say; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over 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.” (Matthew 10: 17-22)

Reflection

It is only the day after Christmas, but today’s Gospel of Matthew seems to shake off the holiday spirit by jolting us with Jesus’ prophecy of coming persecutions. Every year, except when December 26 falls on a Sunday, our Church commemorates this day as the feast of St. Stephen, who is considered as the first martyr of the early Church. St. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit’s power, and as Jesus had predicted, he was hated for his wisdom in proclaiming the Gospel, dragged before the Sanhedrin, falsely accused, and was stoned to death.

Unless one is in Iran, some parts of India, North Korea or Saudi Arabia, we have no reason to fear as the early Christians did in proclaiming the Word of God and being “scourged and dragged into courts” for our Christian belief. But why is it that even in our own Catholic communities, many among us are still hesitant and even ashamed to give testimony about their faith in front of their peers? If only they would put their complete trust in God, and not on their own capabilities, they would surely be able to give witness to the Holy Spirit’s power working in their lives.

A struggling couple, new members of our community who are both farmers/fruit vendors, showed us how to be Christ’s mouthpieces when they delivered their life sharing in one of our breakfast fellowships. Even though this couple, who came from humble beginnings, were aware of their limited academic achievements and difficulty in articulating the English language, they were nonetheless willing to stand up and be counted for the Lord. And the appreciation showered on them after their life sharing proved what Jesus said, that “it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Lord, make me a mouthpiece of Your Word. When the opportunity to evangelize and to share Your Gospel is at hand, grant me the courage of St. Stephen, Your servant, to speak boldly for the sake of Your kingdom. Amen.

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