HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF ST. STEPHEN (1)

HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF ST. STEPHEN

HOMILY THEME: THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE AND UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTMAS

BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas

 

HOMILY: Mt 10:17-22

Jesus said to His disciples, “Beware of people, 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.”

Just a day after the celebration of Our Lordʹs Birth, we celebrate the feast of the martyrdom of St. Stephen. He is the first Christian to be killed for his faith in Jesus Christ. What a great spoiler, we may say! We are still relishing the beautiful scene of the Nativity in Bethlehem, our hearts still filled with excitement and joy at seeing the newborn Infant Jesus, but today, we are already talking about the bloody death of the first martyr. We may rightly think this feast just has no place in this season of glee.

However, far from being a spoiler, the feast today is giving us the right perspective and understanding of Christmas, lest we be so enamored by the romanticism and sentimentality attached to it. After all, there is nothing romantic with the whole situation of the Divine Infant. The night is dark and cold, not just in reference to the weather, but also to the hearts of men that offered Him no welcome, even refusing to give Him a little decent space. The accommodation accorded Him is down to the barest minimum and far from comfortable – stable for animals, swaddling clothes, and a manger for his bed. Add to these the threat to the life of the Child which is too real, with the worldly powers trying to get Him out of their way. All these are clear indications that the Baby Jesus is born to suffer and die.
This is what the feast of this first martyr is telling us, helping us understand the true meaning of the birth of Jesus. He was born precisely to offer His life as a ransom for the many. He was born so that, by His sacrifice, we may have life in all its fullness.

And this leads us also to reflect on the meaning of our life. Why are we born in this world? In order to enjoy the wealth and glory of the world? In order to wallow in luxury and comfort? Jesus was born not for any of these reasons, but to obey the will of the heavenly Father and offer His life that others may live. And as His followers, He reminds us all that no servant is greater than his master. Following Jesusʹ footsteps, we expect to get what He got and end up where He ended up. St. Stephen was the first to show this to us in concrete terms. He followed Jesus and it led him to his cross and martyrdom.

Let us be clear about this: following Jesus is not a walk in the park. It is a painful walk with the cross on our shoulders. Christmas is not just about the birthday of Jesus. It is also about the beginning of His ascent to Calvary. Similarly, our birthday is not just to commemorate the beginning of our life in this world, but also to remind us of the beginning of our journey towards our own Calvary so that we may receive the reward of everlasting life.

May the example of St. Stephen inspire us to live meaningful lives as we do our best to serve God and our neighbors. May the Blessed Mother Mary, the Queen of Martyrs, help us obtain from God the graces we need to faithfully follow Jesus from Bethlehem all the way to Calvary, from Christmas until Good Friday, so that we may also join Him come Easter Sunday.

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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