Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, the day after Christmas, is the feast of the protomartyr of the Faith, that is the first of those who have died for their Faith in God. He is St. Stephen, one of the seven deacons appointed to serve the people of God, sharing and giving the nourishment, and in charge of the Church’s charitable acts and works.
One might be wondering, why after the joy of Christmas, then we immediately go on to celebrate a tragedy, that is the death of a faithful and holy servant of God. But truthfully, if we have understood what Christmas is truly about, then this would not surprise us at all, and indeed, it would have fit perfectly into the order of things. Christmas joy and happiness is not about the glamour, the parties, the revelries and the things we do to make things look great, but it is truly about the Joy we have, for our God has given the perfect manifestation of His love for us and His faithfulness through Jesus.
Did Jesus come into the world to affirm His people and praise them? No, in fact, He did not mince His words, and His words are true, and filled with criticisms at those who have misinterpreted the Law, and worse still for those who even misled the faithful with their sinful ways. As such, as we all should know, Jesus did not have an easy time, and oppositions always came His way, particularly from the Pharisees and the chief priests who viewed Him as a rival to their power, influence and authority.
This is exactly what Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. He mentioned how those who believed in Him will also suffer just as He had suffered. The world had rejected Him, and all those who placed their trust in the world also rejected Him. Then, the same too would also happen to all those who walk in the way of Christ. The world will also reject them and attempt to eliminate them, just as they had tried to eliminate Christ.
It is to say and highlight that following Christ is not an easy path, and it is certainly not for those who seek to be complacent and desire acceptance by the world. As St. Stephen had shown us, as well as many other martyrs of the Faith that followed in his footsteps, being faithful to God and obedient to His will is a tough one, and often life is placed on the line, and many lost their lives refusing to abandon their Faith in God.
Christ came into our world, incarnate as the Baby Jesus that we celebrate as Christmas, but many would not want to listen to Him and what He had come to tell them, because they were misled, they were deep in the lies of Satan and they embraced to much of worldliness that prevented them from realising the truth about themselves.
That is why when Christ came into the world and bring the truth to them, many found it difficult to accept what He had told them. The Pharisees and the elders of the people refused to listen to St. Stephen as well. St. Stephen spoke at length, telling them all about God and His wondrous works throughout the ages, and he highlighted how the stubbornness of the people of God prevented them from receiving the grace of God and understanding His will.
They closed their ears and covered them, while shouting and lusting for the death of St. Stephen. They tortured him and stoned him to death. This is a clear example of how mankind often refuses to listen to the truth and instead prefer to be buoyed and bought over by the lies of the devil. We are often distracted from the truth, and when the truth comes our way, we come up with a thousand excuses and more to deny that truth.
That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us live in denial, and we do not recognise our sinfulness before God. We tend to shut God out of our lives, and that is why many of us do not recognise the true value and meaning of Christmas. Christmas is about the coming of the Saviour, whose truth and love would dispel all falsehoods and lies, and we have to face the truth no matter how horrible and ugly the truth is.
Therefore, as we continue to rejoice in the joy of this Christmas season, let us also heed the examples of St. Stephen and the other holy martyrs, who had given up their lives for the Lord, in defense of their faith. They did not hide the truth, but reveal the entirety of the truth they have received from Christ. Therefore, we as the disciples and followers of Christ must also not mince our words, and we must not compromise on the Faith.
Let us preach the Good News of the Lord and the fullness of faith with complete trust and confidence in God’s providence. Practice the Faith through our words, actions and deeds, just like St. Stephen, who did not become angry or hateful to those who have condemned him to death, but instead like Christ, he forgave them and begged that their sins may not be counted against them.
Thus, foremost in our concerns should be the propagation of the unadulterated and unchanged Faith in all its fullness. We cannot be witness to half faiths, or else we witness for nothing. Instead, let us persevere, even against the opposition of the world, to be the bringer of the Joy of Christmas into the world. May Christ be with us all, His peoples and disciples, give us strength and renew our courage and resolve to live our faith with full effort and sincerity. God bless us all. Amen.
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