Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the courageous testimony of one of the early Church saints and martyrs, namely St. Stephen, who was one of the original seven holy deacons appointed to serve the Church and was also the first of those who were martyred for their faith. St. Stephen spoke openly and courageously of the Lord’s truth and salvation, and he stood alone before the entire assembly of the Sanhedrin defending the truth he has been called to proclaim.
St. Stephen spoke the truth of God’s salvation and all of His plans for us mankind, as he presented before all gathered, with great wisdom and clarity, what God had spoken and repeated so many times through His prophets and messengers. Many of these prophets and messengers had been put to great suffering themselves as the people they were sent to refused to believe in the truth, and that was then that St. Stephen had his turn to suffer for the Lord’s sake, for speaking the truth and defending that truth.
God has done all of His wonderful deeds through Christ, His Son, and He has blessed us through the suffering and Passion of His Son, as He laid dying on the Cross, bearing the full burden of our combined sins, and by suffering for us, Christ has given us this path to freedom and reconciliation with His heavenly Father. It is this same Jesus Christ Whom we have heard in our Gospel passage, performing His work and ministry among the people in Galilee, preaching the truth of God and showing the love of God to them.
And He told the people gathered there of the simple instruction and desire in His heart, that all of them ought to believe in the One Whom God had sent into the world, that is in Him and in His truth, in all that He has spoken and revealed to them, the revelation of God’s love and the desire He has to save us all mankind, liberating us from our many sins and reconciling us to Himself. It is this same truth that St. Stephen has also been preaching so courageously about, dedicating his life to serve the Lord’s will to the best of his abilities.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard from our Scripture passages today, we have been reminded of our calling as Christians to follow the good examples and inspiration set by St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. It does not mean that we have to be martyred or to suffer like St. Stephen had gone through, but rather, we are called to have the same courage and dedication that this saint and martyr had shown in fulfilling his calling and in living up to his ministry.
Each and every one of us as Christians have been given our respective calling, mission and we have been blessed by God with various gifts, talents and abilities to contribute to the greater good and work of the Church. We have been blessed with various opportunities and graces, to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters, to be witnesses for Christ, to proclaim His truth and love through our lives and through we live our lives and our daily actions, our words and deeds.
It is indeed not going to be easy for us to be obedient to Christ and to follow faithfully the path that God has laid before us. The sufferings of St. Stephen, his martyrdom and also what the prophets before him had encountered, coupled with what the Lord Jesus Himself had to face throughout His ministry, all the suffering He had to endure during His Passion and crucifixion, all of these show us that to be a faithful Christian, it requires us to really put our effort and commitment that we truly become the followers of Christ not just in name but also in the spirit and in truth.
Are we able and willing to become the witnesses of Christ’s truth and resurrection? This is our challenge, brothers and sisters in Christ, the challenge that we have been given as part of our common baptismal mission and calling. We are called to be the beacons of Christ’s light, to bear His hope and salvation to the world, especially important during this most challenging time and these moments when we are struggling and having difficulties because of all the troubles our world and our various communities are facing these days.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we bring more hope into this world and help others to get out of their despair and suffering, their darkness and their hopelessness, by showing them that in Christ alone there is hope for our redemption and eternal life? Let us show that hope to our fellow men, and let us all unite our sufferings and troubles to the sufferings of Christ on the Cross, bearing in mind that Christ has suffered for us, the ultimate suffering that we may live and have hope again.
And let us also not forget the suffering that St. Stephen and the many other holy martyrs of the Lord had to suffer in the midst of their ministry and throughout their lives. All these sufferings ultimately remind us that even though we may suffer for now in the world, but as long as we stay faithful to the Lord, remain committed to Him and dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, we will receive the assurance of eternal life and salvation in God.
May the Lord be with us always in our journey, and may He help us to remain faithful despite all the challenges and difficulties we may have to endure throughout our journey of faith. Let us all commit ourselves from now on with a renewed spirit and strength, to serve God in all of our daily actions and in our daily lives, doing our best to glorify Him through our words, actions and deeds, now and forevermore. Amen.