The Feast of St. Stephen

Jeremiah 26:1-9,12-15, Psalm 31, Acts 6:8, 7:2a,51-60, Matthew 23:34-39

December 26, 2019

A revised Reflection by Bp. Elmer, transcribed by Deacon Andrew Gossage

The celebration of Christ’s birth is followed immediately by a feast of a martyr. The early Church decided that the first martyr in the Church was worthy of the honour of being next to Jesus, because of what He did.

God’s love is for sharing

Martyrdom is something that Christians may face in life. When we hear the word “martyr”, we think of someone who died for the faith; but the original meaning is a witness to the extent that some of them indeed died for their faith. We may think of it as ancient and archaic. Paradoxically, the opposite true. Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. BBC broadcasted that Yesterday, December 27, 2019, 11 Christians were beheaded in Nigeria.

Persecution is sharing in the suffering of Christ; a result of unrighteousness exposed by righteousness; a reaction to the preaching of the Gospel. Pope John Paul II said, when the Gospel is unpopular, that is when you have to preach even more.

Jesus our Lord was persecuted, mocked and killed for telling that world that God is love. Jesus continued to love those who didn’t love Him; we should do the same. Stephen repeated what Jesus said when He was crucified: “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing”.

May we hear God’s call to preach the good news to the city we live in. Jesus came to save us, and our mission is to share His salvation with those around us, regardless of how they respond.

It’s an honour to serve

At the beginning of the Church, so many people were converted that some of their needs were not being met. The Church ordained deacons, and seven of them and Stephen was one of them. He was anointed by and demonstrated it (Acts 6:8- he was full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people). A Deacon is an icon of Christ’s servant-hood, hence each time we see a deacon, we reminded the calling to serve, the least, the lost and the lonely in our community. Bishops, priests, deacons and Christians are each anointed to do what God has called them to do, but first the have to be a servant.

We’re all called to serve. It is honourable to serve God. A hundred years ago, people were proud if a family member was a priest: they considered it a blessing from the Lord, and there were many nuns and priests. But times have changed, and so have people’s priorities.

May we see beauty and the joy of serving the Lord, that it is truly a blessing – that we will again have joy in serving God and regard it as a privilege. We should not grow weary of serving Him, because the joy of the Lord is our strength. If we are not in God’s will, there is no joy; but if your life is where God wants it to be and you are in His will, there is joy.

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