Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened from our first reading, taken from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, about what had happened to St. Stephen, one of the seven first deacons to be chosen by the Apostles, who was also the very first martyr of the Church. As he performed his works among the people and teaching about the Lord Jesus and His salvation, those who were opposed to the Lord and His teachings came after St. Stephen and harassed him.
Nonetheless, even though they brought false witnesses against Him, just as much as they have also done against the Lord, St. Stephen spoke with great wisdom and clarity, defending the Lord with zeal and devotion. He pointed out how God had done so many great things and good deeds for His people throughout the ages, right from the beginning of time, towards the time of Abraham, and then Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, and then to the time of the prophets, but the people refused to turn away from their sins and repent.
Instead, they doubled down on their sins, and they rejected the Saviour Whom God had sent into their midst, Jesus Christ, Whose life and works St. Stephen was testifying on at that time before the Sanhedrin. And we saw later on, how these words further angered St. Stephen and made them to seize the holy servant of God, and stoned him to death. Thus, St. Stephen became the first martyr of the Church.
St. Stephen showed us that there will be challenges facing those who keep their faith firmly in God, as he himself had done. St. Stephen reminded us that if we want to follow the Lord and be His true disciples and servants, then we must first of all, believe in God and in all of His teachings, in all of our ways, in all of the words we utter, in all the actions we take and which we do in our daily lives, in how we interact with one another.
And if we truly believe in Him, and not just merely having a superficial faith, then all of us should be ready to defend our faith just as St. Stephen has done. No, it does not mean that we should all purposefully and intentionally seek martyrdom and death in God, but rather, we must be firm in our conviction and desire to live our lives faithfully and in full obedience to God’s will, regardless of what persuasions and temptations we meet in our lives may convince, persuade or even force us to do.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, how many of us truly believe in God with all of our heart, our mind and our strength? How many of us are truly convinced that God’s ways are the way forward for us, and not that of our own? If we are true Christians, then we should indeed put God as the clear priority of our lives, turning towards Him in all of our ways and dealings, and turning away from sin.
But, the sad reality is that, many of us are so busy and so preoccupied with worldly concerns, for our needs, wants and desires in this world that we end up being distracted from God. Our priority in life is not God, but instead, the desire and pursuit for money, for success, for worldly prestige and honour, for sexual pleasures and for satisfaction of our ego and greed.
That is why so many of us have distanced ourselves from God, and unless we do something concrete in our lives, now and not delaying any further, we will end up falling into damnation in hell, when it is too late for us to turn back and regret all that we have done wrongly in our lives. Let us all therefore, spend time and effort to be more faithful to God, that each and every one of us, by our words, actions and deeds can be inspiration for one another, and also for all those who have yet to receive God’s salvation, that they too may be saved.
May the Lord bless us all and all of our endeavours, our good works and commitment to Him. May He strengthen us day after day, that we will always be faithful to the commandments and laws of God, and that we will always put God as our first and foremost priority before everything else just as St. Stephen, holy deacon and martyr had done. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.