HOMILY OF SATURDAY DECEMBER 26
FEAST OF ST STEPHEN( First Martyr)
Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59, Matthew 10:17-22
It takes courage to speak the truth of the gospel boldly. The selection of the seven deacons as people chosen for special purpose was the first slap on the Jews who saw those Jews who returned from exile as inferior Jews. Stephen and the deacons were chosen to help in the daily distribution of food and make sure that the Hellenistic Jews were not left out. They were men filled with the Holy Spirit.
Meanwhile, filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen made some bold statements which challenged the Jewish status quo. Prior to the encounter in today’s first reading, their pride had been touched when Stephen made some allusions to the temple.
He compounded the problem when he said when he exclaimed before those who belong the synagogue of Freedman, of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia He said, “behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” This was after he had engaged them in a argument and won. They were enraged as his utterances.
Obviously, those who lack spiritual revelations will remain chronic traditionalists. They can never grow beyond their ” how it has been” mentality. The realities beyond the physical will always be foreign to them.
Stephen was rushed out of the city and stoned. However, he cried aloud saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” He even forgave them for their ignorance.
Truthfully, our spiritual encounter oftentimes remains at the private or personal level. It requires someone of the same experience to understand. That is why Stephen’s testimony was viewed as blasphemy. On his own part, he was confident because he was sure of his experience.
Likewise, when we have message from God or know the truth of the Gospel, we must not shrink from speaking it out for fear of those who will not believe or those it will affect. We must be sure that when we speak the word of God undiluted, he takes over his work. Whoever refute it is refuting him and not us.
Moreover, the Lord said in today’s gospel, ” When they deliver you up, do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are yo say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Mathew 10:18-20.
The Lord is our defender. He protects our soul, even when our body suffers. All we need is to keep the faith alive despite all odds. We must bear witness to the truth in season and out of season.
May the Lord usher us into his beautiful presence. May he sharpen our knowledge of his mysteries that we may derive our joy only in him. Amen.
St Stephen, pray for us.