Homily for Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr
Theme: YOU WILL BE HATED BY ALL BECAUSE OF MY NAME….” They will hand you over to their courts and they will flog you”
By: Fr. Josep Mª MASSANA i Mola OFM
Homily for Saturday December 26 2020
Today, just having savored the deep experience of the birth of the Child Jesus, the liturgical scenery has changed over. We might think that celebrating martyrdom does not fit with the Christmas charm… The martyrdom of St. Stephen, whom we revere as the protomartyr of Christianity, falls squarely into the theology of the Incarnate Son of God. Jesus came into this world to shed His Blood for us. Stephen was the first who shed his blood for Jesus. We read in this Gospel as Jesus himself announces it: «you will be handed over to the local councils and (…) you will be brought before as witnesses» (Mt 10:17/18). Precisely “martyr” means exactly this: witness.
This witness in word and deed is given thanks to the force of the Holy Spirit: “the Spirit of your Father (…) will speak though you» (cf. Mt 10; 19). As we can read in the “Acts of the Apostles”, Chapter 7, Stephen, brought to court, gives a superb lecture, by making a tour through the Old Testament, while showing that it all converges in the New Testament, in the Person of Jesus. Whatever had been announced by the prophets and taught by the patriarchs is fulfilled in Him.
In the narrative of his martyrdom we can find a beautiful Trinitarian allusion: “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7.55). His experience was as a taste of the Glory in Heaven. And Stephen died as Jesus did, by forgiving those who sacrificed him: «Lord, do not hold this sin against them» (Acts 7.60); he said his Master’s words: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34)
Let us ask this martyr to let us live like him, full of the Holy Spirit, so that, by fixing our gaze into Heaven, we can see Jesus at the right hand of God. This experience will allow us to already enjoy Heaven, while we still are on Earth.
Fr. Josep Mª MASSANA i Mola OFM