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Love Him

Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr

First Reading: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven
and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said,
“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,
and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Responsorial Psalm

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 31:3CD-4, 6 AND 8AB, 16BC AND 17

R. (6) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Gospel: Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of men, 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.”

NAB

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Throughout the Advent season, we have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas Day. Yesterday, the moment we had all been waiting for was realized. He came to us.

When I get to this point in the season, I often feel somewhat frozen in a state of, Now what? You’re present, Lord, but where do I go from here? All the hype leading up to Christmas can leave us with a sense of let-down when the day has passed.

But we should not allow ourselves to become dispirited. Christ is calling for our response to His extension of love.

As we trek the days towards Epiphany, during these Twelve Days of Christmas, our thoughts turn towards man coming to God. Christ has come to us, now, we, in turn, must go to Him.

Today is the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first martyr. Saint Stephen lived His life in imitation of Christ, loving God to the point of death. But what we also see in his example in today’s First Reading is a love of neighbor. When his assailants began closing in on him from all sides, irate and ready to strike, St. Stephen does not run away. He does not turn his back on the truth that he has proclaimed, but stands firm, willing to give an example to his enemies.

He loves God in that instant, showing he would prefer death over denying Him and singing His praise, but, too, he loves his neighbor/enemy, showing them a more excellent way. He does not hide the truth from them; he gives them an example of it, in charity.

For this reason, in England and associated nations, today is known as Boxing Day. It is the day when the poor boxes were traditionally opened and distributed to those in need. It is a great way to live out this love for our neighbor that Saint Stephen so amazingly demonstrates in his martyrdom.

We must come to Him as He has come to us. We will always find Him present in the love that we show others. Today, let us go to Him there.

Be attentive to moments today when God is calling out to you in the needs of those around you. Love Him through loving them.

Laurel Muff is a creator and appreciator of beautiful things. She resides with her husband and daughters in Northern California. You can find more about her here.

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