AD SENSE

December 26, St Stephen

St. Stephen, First Martyr 26th December 2020

Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59; Matthew 10:17-22

Martyrdom of Stephen: They rushed at him and stoned him.

 

A drama technique that film directors sometimes use is to follow a quiet sequence with a burst of noise, or a noisy sequence with a period of silence. The sharp contrast strengthens both sequences. That’s what the Church does in today’s liturgy.

It follows the tenderness of Jesus’ birth with the violence of Stephen’s death. This heightens our appreciation of both events. Divine tenderness stands in stark contrast to human violence. It was human violence, like Stephen’s death, that made Jesus take flesh and live among us. He came to transform our violence into his gentleness.

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Is our witness to divine tenderness more eloquent than our witness to human violence? Do we scream and shout rather than respond with gentleness? “Learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit.” Matthew 11:29

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We are still very much in a festive mood, with Christmas carols like "Silent Night, Holy Night" and "Joy to the world" still ringing in our heads and maybe we are still bloated from all the feasting. Well, today the Church opens up the liturgy with, of all things, the gruesome and shocking martyrdom of St. Stephen.

Somehow the tenderness of Christmas is shattered by the violent execution of St. Stephen. Why didn't the Church move this feast to anytime, maybe in Lent, so that we can still have that soft and warm Christmas feeling and just talk about angels and shepherds and baby Jesus? Well, the martyrdom St. Stephen has a deep connection with the birth of Christ.

 

Somehow Christmas have been embellished and glossed over with so much sentimentality that we forget that Jesus was born into a hard, cold and violent world. The Son of God had to born in stable, of all places, and laid in a manger. Not long after He was born, King Herod was looking for Him to kill Him.

 

That was only the beginning of the violence and the persecution that Jesus was going to face, and it would eventually lead to His execution of the cross. Yet when we reflect on the joy of Christmas and the martyrdom of St. Stephen, we see the connection between divine tenderness and human violence. Christ came to heal our human violence with His divine tenderness, expressed in mercy and forgiveness, as witnessed to by St. Stephen. Let us also believe that the ugliness of human violence can only be changed with the divine tenderness of forgiveness and love.

The young man by the name of Saul in the 1st reading, who approved of the killing, would later be touched by divine tenderness, then changed his name to Paul and went forth to proclaim the tender love of God and His forgiveness. So in the face of human anger and violence, let us stand firm on divine love and tenderness. It is only through God's mercy and forgiveness that hardened hearts will be turned into loving hearts.

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Let us pray: Lord our God, we honor today St Stephen, the first martyr of your young Church. Make us good witnesses like him, people filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit,

men and women who are full of fortitude, as we try to live the life of Jesus. Give us a great trust that we may live and die in your hands and make us pray for those who harm us, that you may forgive them and us. We ask you this through Christ our Lord .