In the Catholic Church, there is a traditional belief that the date of the recovery of the relics of St. Stephen was Dec. 26, 415. Hence we celebrate St. Stephen’s feast the day after Christmas. Ste¬phen, who was a deacon and the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death outside Jerusalem about two years after the death of Christ. Like the Lord, St. Stephen also asked the Lord to forgive those who were stoning him, because they did not know what they were doing. We are often told that the Lord Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father but when St. Stephen was being stoned and asked for forgiveness, the Book of acts tells us that the Lord Jesus is seen standing at the right hand of God the Father. Indeed he was given a standing ovation to St. Stephen. The Church’s long tradition of celebrating the memorial of St. Stephen the day after celebrating the Birth of Christ, does not serve to demote Christmas, but to continue & manifest more clearly an important comparison between the disciple and the master and elevates the true meaning of the Christmas celebration.
Tertullian, one of the early Church fathers of the second century declared that, “the blood of the martyrs is seed for the church.” The seed Stephen sowed bore almost immediate fruit. I believe it was the witness of Stephen’s martyrdom that opened the way for Christ into the life of St. Paul. Even as he held the coats and was consenting to Stephen’s death he was witnessing in Stephen’s face the risen life and love of Christ, and Paul’s road to Damascus led past the very place where Stephen died.
In the First reading, Stephen was threatened by a mob it was a tense atmosphere and the enraged people were instigated to throw stones, St Stephen, a man filled with the power and spirit of God, however, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God. (Acts 7: 54- 56).His reaction shows how he was not reacting to the situation of the mob attacking him, instead he was focused on God and we read He saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God!.
Prayer: Abba Father, we pray for the grace to be brave witneses in our families, work places and Church, so that we may win others for your kingdom. Amen.