26th December, Christmas: Stephen the Martyr, Christ’s Image

We are still in the joy of Christmas, and today, we celebrate the martyrdom, that is, the witness, of St Stephen as Christ’s disciple and martyr. In him we see Christ’s image.

It may appear quite strange that during the joy of Christmas we have readings about a sad event as the killing of Stephen. Yet, our focus is not on the killing, or the way he died, but the witness and the significance of his death.  We celebrate his firmness in witnessing his faith both in words and actions. He’s a model of Christian witness.

Readings
Acts 6: 8–10; 7 54–60
Psalm 31: 3–4, 6–8, 17, 21
Matthew 10: 17–22

Who’s Stephen?

Stephen was head of deacons, those in charge of administrating the material goods, especially in the service of the poor, in the early church. He’s said to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that is, his life was led by the Holy Spirit.

How?

Firstly, Stephen courageously stood up for his faith. Without fearing, he reproached the Priests and the Teachers of the Law: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” Stephen ended up being stoned to death, but he was not afraid of dying. He placed himself in the hands of Jesus saying: “O Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and he prayed for those who killed him. He’s the first martyr of Christ.

Stephen in Christmas time

In Christmas mystery, the incarnation, we celebrate the Son of God who became human like us and came to live among us; thereby showing us the way of salvation and how to live truly in the image and likeness of God. Jesus is perfect human being, thus, the perfect image of God. In Stephen we have the model of a follower of Christ for he dedicated himself to living like his master. His life reflects the life of Jesus.

We pray, then, that by the intercession of Stephen our lives may conform with the life of Jesus, God who has become human like us.

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