Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of
men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be
led before governors and kings for my sake as
a witness before them and the pagans. When they
hand you over, do not worry about how you are
to speak or what you are to say. You
will be given at that moment what you are to
say. For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father
his child; children will rise up against parents and
have them put to death. You will be hated
by all because of my name, but whoever endures to
the end will be saved.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I open
my heart to you on this new day. Because
of your unfailing love for me, you deserve my
deep gratitude and complete confidence in you, so I set
my entire being at your disposal. Do with me
what you wish. I know that you love me and
that nothing that can truly harm me will happen
as long as I keep striving to live in your
Petition: Lord, help me to experience your
forgiveness and learn to forgive in return.
1. “Do Not Hold
This Sin Against Them!” These words of St. Stephen
(Acts 7:60) repeat Christ’s last words on earth. He
has entered into Christ’s heart. He is on fire for
his Lord. This fire is making him pass through
the same crucible of rejection and death that Christ
passed through. And he is walking in the fire without
being scorched. His heart burns so much for Christ
that it cannot fester with hatred and despair. Like
his Lord, he wants only the salvation of his persecutors.
Am I letting my heart to be ignited with
the flame of love that burns in that Child
in the manger? Am I showing the zeal of love
that is selfless service?
2. The Case of Saul: The Acts
of the Apostles records the approval of Stephen’s martyrdom
by Saul. Saul was a man who thought he
understood everything. He thought he knew how evil Stephen was
and what a threat his teaching brought. His intentions
seemed correct, but he was dead wrong. Saul will
later speak of himself as someone born dead. He was
dead –– dead in his soul – because he
had missed the point. Yet God is merciful. Saul
soon becomes St. Paul. Jesus accepts the prayer of Stephen
just as the Father accepts the prayer of Jesus.
We do not need to be afraid. God accepts our
prayers, too. He will do marvels if we persevere
in prayer and service.
3. Hard of Heart: We’re often pushed
out of our comfort zone by Christ’s message. We
are ready to be forgiven by Christ and by
others, but it is not so easy to take the
logical next step of quickly and easily forgiving others.
To become a forgiving St. Stephen we need to keep
in mind that we, too, are Sauls. The Christmas
Season is a perfect time for a change of
heart. By contemplating today the loving face of God in
that child in the manger we can experience his
tender, infinite love for us. Anchored in his friendship
we can gain the magnanimity of heart to set aside
any ill will from past injuries and desire for
everyone to find the peace and joy that only comes
from knowing the Word Incarnate.
Conversation with Christ:
Lord, thank you for the example of St. Stephen, the
first martyr of your young Church. On this day
after your birth, you also show me the birth
of total courage in love. I believe that I am
safe in your arms no matter how hard the
difficulties. I believe that you entrust me with your mission.
Today I renew the commitment to be faithful to
my mission as a Christian and an apostle “till
death on the battlefield.” Jesus, you are my Lord. I
will follow you.
Resolution: Today I will
look for the positive side in everyone I meet. I
will look beyond their limitations. I will forgive anyone
who might offend me.