Monday, 26 December 2016 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we remember and celebrate the memory of St. Stephen, the first martyr or Protomartyr of the Church. He was one of the first seven Deacons of the Church, who in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles was described as a man filled with the Holy Spirit and with the grace of God, but who was persecuted by the Jewish authorities, who pressed false charges against him and eventually made him to suffer and die.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us must be wondering why are we celebrating the memory of a martyr, so brutally tortured and made to die by stoning as described in the Acts of the Apostles, just one day after Christmas, a day of rejoicing and celebration for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It must have felt very weird to rejoice on one day with festivities and celebration, and suddenly on the next day, to remember the memory of a great martyr persecuted for his faith.

But this is the reality of our faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, that St. Stephen had made very clear in his defence before the elders and the Jewish authorities. St. Stephen made a long and passionate defence of himself and what he believe in before those leaders as seen in the Acts of the Apostles, where he cited how God had made His salvation through Jesus Christ His Son, tracing it right down from the beginning of time to the time of Christ.

And yet, those leaders and many of the people refused to believe in God even after seeing and witnessing all that Jesus had done before them. There were still many who were stubborn and refused to believe because they have hardened their hearts against God and His love. And these persecuted those who believe in the Lord, and spoke out against those who believe in the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.

It is a reminder for all of us that our faith is not just about rejoicing and happiness, not just about Christmas and its festivities. It is also about the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and His suffering, which the world had inflicted upon Him, because they were against Him. There are always going to be many people who are adamantly against the Lord and His ways, and in their stubbornness, they oppose us and made us to suffer, as they themselves had done upon our Lord.

Jesus Himself had said that all who followed Him would suffer, from the persecution by the world and from rejection by all who rejected His message. That was what happened to the Apostles and to the many disciples of Jesus. Many had to grapple with the many problems they encountered when they had to choose between obeying their families and their societal norms and rules against their faith in the Lord.

It is important for us to take note of this as Christians. As those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will endure difficulties and obstacles in our lives, and from time to time we will be challenged and we will be asked to stand up for our faith. Are we then ready to stand up and defend our faith as St. Stephen had done? St. Stephen stood up for his faith, and he was richly rewarded for that faith.

Are we able to do the same, brethren? Are we able to devote ourselves to our God in the same way? It is important that we are able to stick closely to what the Lord had taught us, and not to falter in the face of persecution and challenges. We should not be those who choose what we want to believe and what we do not want to believe.

In this season of Christmas, and particularly on this day when we honour St. Stephen, the great martyr and servant of God, let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, and find in ourselves the courage and the determination to live faithfully in all our ways, so that in everything we say and do, we will always honour God and give glory to Him. Let us not forget that out of His great love for us, He has willingly given Himself as a willing and worthy sacrifice for our sake, that we may be saved.

He wants nothing else but love and commitment from us. Let us all use this opportunity to thank Him and to show Him our love, by following in the footsteps of St. Stephen, be loving and caring to our brethren in need, and be forgiving for those who have slighted us and persecuted us. Let us be courageous to live in accordance with our faith, and not be fearful anymore, for surely God will be with us. May God bless us all, and may St. Stephen intercede for us sinners. Amen.

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