THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
Feast of St. Stephen
Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59
Yesterday we celebrated life, the coming into the world of
our Savior; today we look at death, the martyrdom of Stephen
(Acts 7:58a). Yesterday we looked to the still of the night,
to the quiet serenity of that awesome event at the stable;
today we hear the shouting and reviling as Stephen is stoned
to death. Yesterday we were filled with joy and peace; today
we face grief and turmoil. Yesterday we gazed at the beautiful
unblemished face of the Christ child; today we look at the
battered, broken and bloody face of Stephen.
a sudden change in situation! How seemingly improper as we
are still right in the midst of our Christmas celebration.
But in truth, Christmas and Stephen’s martyrdom are
intimately related. Jesus came as a Savior. He came not to
live but to die. His purpose in coming is only fulfilled by
his death on the cross.
we walk the path of Christ and we go the way of our Savior.
For some, that means martyrdom. Not just dying to self, as
we are all called to do, but a true giving of one’s
life for the cause of Christ. Jesus in today’s gospel
speaks about what could happen, about the persecution that
inevitably comes to committed Christians. He says, “they
will hand you over to courts and scourge you” (Mt 10:17).
In the West Christians are being haled to court simply for
standing up for their beliefs; they are being fined heavily
and imprisoned, though not being scourged. Not yet. He says,
“children will rise up against parents and have them
put to death.” (Mt 10:21b). In the West relatives are
turning on each other, especially with regard to their divide
on gay ideologies, though not being put to death. Not yet.
is the reality in the world today, steeped in secular humanism.
“You will be hated by all because of my name”
(Mt 10:22a). Christians today are the most persecuted, with
actual martyrdom in places like the Middle East. Christians
are scorned and mocked for their beliefs. This is by their
relatives, friends and neighbors! “To all my foes I
am a thing of scorn, and especially to my neighbors a horror
to my friends.” (Ps 31:12a).
the supposedly civilized West, persecution will intensify,
simply because the Modernist world cannot accept the witness
of true Christians. The goal of the enemy is to eradicate
faith, especially the Christian faith. The eventual scenario,
in the face of Christians persisting in living their faith,
is severe persecution, and the ultimate expression of that
is martyrdom. “They conspire together against me; they
plot to take my life.” (Ps 31:14b).
what are we to do? First, we look to God’s mercy. “Let
your face shine on your servant; save me in your mercy.”
(Ps 31:17). Second, we continue to trust in God. “But
I trust in you, Lord” (Ps 31:15a). The God who loves
us, who sent His own Son to suffer and die for us, has the
greatest plan for our lives. “My destiny is in your
hands; rescue me from my enemies, from the hands of my pursuers.”
we are also to be proactive. The world desperately needs conversion.
Even many Catholics are non-practicing and are counted among
the hordes of the enemy. We must do massive evangelization.
As we engage in spiritual warfare, we are confident of our
God. “You will not abandon me into enemy hands”
God allows to happen in our lives, that is the best for us.
Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. This is the reality: “You
are my God.” (Ps 31:15b). If our future includes martyrdom,
so be it. That is a sure ticket to heaven. “Behold,
I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the
right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56). Then indeed God “will
set my feet in a free and open space.” (Ps 31:9b). Eternally.