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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

OUR THEME FOR 2020
(Part 26)

IN THE WAY OF STEPHEN

December 26, 2019

Today’s readings:
Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59
Psalm 31:4-5,7-9,18,22
Matthew 10:17-22


All the more in these dark and deeply troubled times, we as Missionary Families of Christ must be built on the Rock that is Christ. Our name reflects the important work we have been called to do. The aspects of this work are also those aspects that the world today are assaulting intensely.

We know that as holy warriors we will be bruised, battered and bloodied. This is because we are engaged in spiritual war. Many in the world will not take kindly to those who preach Jesus, and who are confronted with their sin. “But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues” (Mt 10:17). This happened to Stephen. When the authorities heard his preaching, “they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.” (Acts 7:54). Martyrdom continues to this day, as the spiritual war continues to rage.

How are we to survive and even thrive?

We must be “of Christ.” We carry his name and must honor that name. In the same way, Jesus takes care of his own and will be there for us. “For your name’s sake lead me and guide me.” (Ps 31:4b). We belong to Jesus. We are his own very special people.

We are “Families.” The intense assault today is on families. The enemy seeks to destroy what God has willed. But many among family members have been taken in by the enemy. They have become the enemy within. Mothers kill their own unborn. Children rebel against their parents. Parents neglect or even abuse their own children. Many have accepted the culture of death and oppose those who think otherwise, including their own close relatives. When more intense persecution is at hand, “brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.” (Mt 10:21). What a horrible situation. We must work to ensure that our own families and many other families are of Christ and living the way of Christ.

Then we are “Missionary.” We exist to do mission. We are to be God’s holy warriors. As it is God who sends us forth and intends to accomplish His will through us, then God will empower us. “For you are my rock and my fortress” (Ps 31:4a). God will protect us. “Free me from the net they have set for me, for you are my refuge.” (Ps 31:5). God will not abandon us. “You will not abandon me into enemy hands” (Ps 31:9a). God will keep us secure in His embrace. “Blessed be the Lord, marvelously he showed to me his mercy in a fortified city.” (Ps 31:22).

So we as holy warriors of MFC will be in intense spiritual war, but we have our God on our side. How are we to survive and thrive? We must never forget that we are “of Christ.” What does this mean?

First, we always focus on Jesus. Especially when we are in the thick of the fight. When Stephen faced the wrath of the enemy, he “looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55b). There will be many challenges, even seeming defeats. There will be many discordant voices, even among our own ranks. But we just look to, listen to and follow Jesus. Assured of our eternal destiny, we can persevere through all the trials and suffering.

Second, we, like Stephen, must be “filled with the holy Spirit” (Acts 7:55a). And if we are filled with the Spirit and doing the work of God, then God will use us as His instruments. “For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt 10:20). We never lose sight of the reality that we do divine work, that we are witnesses to Jesus, that we go forth in the power of the Spirit. We often get in the way of God’s work, and God has to work in spite of us. We must always be docile to the Holy Spirit.

Third, as we confront the zeitgeist, filled with the untruths of modernism, we need the wisdom of God, and we will have it. “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.” (M 10:19). We are God’s instruments. We are God’s mouthpiece. We speak with the wisdom of God. Just as with Stephen, the enemy “could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.” (Acts 6:10).

Fourth, we must be confident of our victory and of our place in heaven. No matter what happens on earth, we will end up in the loving embrace of our Lord. “As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” (Acts 7:59). This helps us to weather the storms and floods that buffet our house (our family, our community, our Church). We remain confident our work will not be for naught, since we have built solidly on the Rock that is Christ.

We survive and we thrive as we endure. We remain of Christ, no matter what. We persevere in our mission, no matter the cost. “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22).

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