Yesterday was a joyous day of celebration – our celebration of the Incarnation. As incongruous as it is to go immediately from birth of the Savior to martyrdom, on this day after Christmas we celebrate the feast of St. Stephon, first martyr of the Catholic Church. The juxtaposition of the two events serves as a reminder of an important fact – that the Incarnation of Christ is intimately linked to His death and resurrection.
We read in Acts that Stephen was “filled with grace and power” as he preached. His words angered some and they “threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.” Twice, Stephen echoes Christ’s words on the cross, first crying out to the Lord to receive his spirit and then asking God to forgive those who are killing him.
The Incarnation begins the incredible act of God’s love that finds its completion in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is the total self-gift of Jesus that allows Stepheon to confidently and triumpahtly announce before his death: “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” The Son of God, though whom Stephen, and all of us, will live forever.
St. Stephen, pray for us. May be be filled with your faith and courage.