DEC. 26. CHRISTMAS SEASON. (B). ST. STEPHEN. MATT.10. 17-22
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.
‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’
The message of this reading may seem strange being immediately after the birth of Christ, but in another sense it is very appropriate as it is telling we should not fear our fellow human beings as the worst they can do is end our earthly life, which is not such a tragic event as it may first appear. What we should fear is “Losing the Friendship of our God!”
The reason is, were men to do their worst, and take our life; - but we were “friends of God”; - we would still receive the appropriate reward for being a faithful disciple of Christ: - “the man who stands firm to the end will be saved!” which means we would gain Eternal Life!
We have a wonderful example of this teaching in the example of today’s saint; - St. Stephen, the first Martyr, who had to endure the worst that man can do, but who was immediately received into God’s presence as a saint and martyr!
This takes us to the heart of why Christ was born on Christmas Day; - which was to bear witness to his Love of God and Neighbour; - to make Reparation for the sins of mankind; - and to Teach how God wants us to live!
And is this not exactly what Saint Stephen did also, firstly by his life and words, but then also by his death? It is so easy to forget, the day after Christmas, how this child’s life was also going to end after thirty-three years; - in an even more violent death than Stephan’s!
How quickly at Christmas do we forget, or overlook, the reason for Christ’s Birth and life on earth; - to Love; - to make Reparation; - and to Teach; - and how central to these duties is the need for suffering and sacrifice; - a message being brought to our attention immediately after the birth of Christ!
Also, strongly implicit in the reading is the need for Trust and Faith, not in our own Wisdom or Ability, but rather in God’s Love and care for his followers!
“Do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; - because it is not you who will be speaking; - the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you!”
How wrong it is for us to trust in ourselves when we have to face difficulties and trials? What Christ is giving us here is a realistic, and more dependable option, namely to trust in the Wisdom and Love of God; - as Saint Stephen did?
So, at the Birth of Christ, we need to be reflecting seriously on the reason for his Birth?