Friday 26th December – Feast of St. Stephen, the first Martyr
Reflection: Matthew 10:17-22
A HAPPY DEATH
We may wonder why the Church chooses to celebrate the feast of a Martyr just after the Nativity of our Lord. Does it not spoil the joyous mood of the season? Certainly not! It brings even greater joy as we celebrate a life of victory over trials and a glorious transition to eternal life. This is why the scripture says: “Good people die, and no one understands or even cares. But when they die, no calamity can hurt them. Those who live good lives find peace and rest in death” (Isaiah 57:1-2). The stoning of St. Stephen in the first reading of today (Acts 7:54-59) is an expression of faith which finds its joy in a happy ending. It brings to life St. Paul’s words: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Beloved, bearing witness to Christ every moment of our lives gives us the opportunity to finish well. Though we may not have to die as Martyrs like St Stephen did, death is inevitable and none of us knows when our time is right. When we live in obedience to God’s word, we purify ourselves and keep continuous watch over our weaknesses. To give in and persist in sinful patterns puts one at risk of dying in sin. However, if we arise and return to the Father each time we become conscious of our sin, we put ourselves on a sure platform to eternal happiness.
As Christians, rather than being afraid of death, our preoccupation should be to live in holiness. Jesus tells us today that trials and persecutions will befall us but we must stand firm to the end. Let us strive to be faithful and we can trust God to strengthen us in times of temptations and difficulty and lead us through our sojourn here on earth to eternal happiness.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, please lead me and guide me to a happy death. Amen.
KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 1014 – The church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death: in the ancient litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: “From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord”, to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us “at the hour of our death” in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.
HIDE A TREASURE: “But he who endures to the end would be saved”. Matthew 10:22 RSV-CE
Readings for Today: Acts 6: 8-10, 7: 54-59; Psalm 31: 3-8, 16-17; Matthew 10: 17-22