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December 25, 2020

December 26 – St. Stephen Proto Martyr
Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59
Matthew 10:17-22

A. Text/Context
• Our gospel today tells us that Jesus is now giving a warning to the 12 apostles about their impending persecutions
• Jesus warned them that they must remain strong because they will soon suffer from trials and persecutions as they witness and follow Jesus
• After a stern warning it is followed by the comforting words of Jesus that God will be the Speaker when the hour of greatest difficulty shall come
• Now after the sad event of the crucifixion and then the glorious event of the resurrection and followed by the conversions in Pentecost many years have passed since then
• Christianity has now flourished as it has grown so fast and so that the early Church led by the 12 apostles are now facing new problems in their ministry
• And so they now need assistants and so the call of the first 7 deacons ordained in the church
• And that includes the saint we have today St. Stephen, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas
• Great preaching and miracles were attributed to Stephen as he is full of grace and power and he did great wonders and signs among the people
• His popularity created enemies and they debated with him, to generate evidence against him to justify their persecution to the early Church
• And Stephen is a protomartyr or the 1st martyr in Christianity
• Stephen is martyred for the faith much more ahead than the apostles who at this time still remained 12 as Judas is now replaced by Matthias
• It was his final defense in front of the Sanhedrin that cost him his life

B. Human Situation
• Stephen admonished the Jewish high court: You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do
• And in this final defense Stephen had a vision of the Lord: Look, I can see heaven thrown open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God
• That vision was taken as the final proof of blasphemy to the Jews who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah or Son of God
• For them, Jesus could not possibly be beside the Father in Heaven. The crowd rushed upon Stephen and carried him outside of the city to stone him to death
• So my dear brothers and sisters, this is the painful prize of being a witness
• With all the accusations of blasphemy leveled by the enemies of the Church against Stephen, and so he was martyred

C. Challenge
• My brothers, today we are reminded of the challenge that we face under a new form of martyrdom
• The suffering that we bear because we are under the dictates of the strong and the powerful
• You want to expose the truth of a corruption but it would cost your life and even the lives of your own families
• There are many people suffering in agony because they bear the truth and they cannot expose it because of so much pressure
• Jesus warns his disciples before they are sent to the missions that they will be sent out like sheep among wolves
• Perhaps, it can happen to us that we can be a lone sheep sent among the pack of wolves
• And there we have to find out who is the wolf wearing a sheep skin
• We are challenged to identify the disguise among the genuine to be a good shepherd to the flock
• And when this happens when you are already placed in a difficult situation and tremendous pressure, just remember the comforting words of Jesus that God will be the Speaker when the hour of greatest difficulty shall come

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Matthew 10 verse 17-22 St. Stephen

Matthew 10 verse 17-22 St. Stephen

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