“But he [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and when he said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:55-60)
Just yesterday, we began our observance of Christmastide by celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord. And now today, we observe the Feast of Saint Stephen, the Church’s first martyr.
His stoning and death, observed by the future Apostle Paul, was certainly a time of sadness; as it always is when we lose a loved one. But the lessons for us as we observe this Feast on the Church’s liturgical calendar—only one day after Christmas Day—are important to living our Christian faith.
First, there is good and evil. So make no mistake: God is good in all things. Jesus came to a people who had been living in a great darkness. He came as the Light of the World that would overcome the dark. His life, death and resurrection bring us new life.
Second, Christ has defeated death, so although the death of a loved one remains for us who are left behind a sad experience, it is also a time of great joy in anticipation of salvation. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the goodness of the Lord and love and forgiveness for his executioners.
Third, following the examples of Christ and Saint Stephen, we can learn how to live the Christian faith that will bring us to new life and salvation. We have opportunities to lay down our lives. Not all of us will be physical martyrs, but we can daily deny ourselves for the good of others around us.
As we move deeper into the Christmas season, let’s try to imitate Saint Stephen in his faith, courage, love and sacrifice; always choosing Christ and turning from evil. May we continually lay down our lives for Jesus, being worthy witnesses of His Gospel. For as Jesus said…
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Into the deep…
The Feast of Saint Stephen, Protomartyr, is December 26. The Mass readings may be found here.
Image: “The Stoning of Saint Stephen” (detail) | Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
We strive to operate on a very small budget, but we need your help. Both one-time and monthly donations are welcome. Just $10 a month will help cover the cost of operating Integrated Catholic Life for one day! Please help us bring enriching and inspiring Catholic content to readers around the world by giving today. Thank you!
A popular and engaging speaker, Deacon Bickerstaff is available to speak at your parish or event. Be sure to check out his Speaker Page to learn more. Into the Deep is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.
Come and join me on Twitter! Follow @dcnmikebick
Please help spread the Gospel. Share this article with family and friends on Facebook and other social media.