Dec 26 – Feast of St. Stephen, protomartyr
St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. A deacon and a preacher, all we know of him is related in the Acts of the Apostles. While preaching the gospel in the streets, angry Jews who believed his message to be blasphemy dragged him outside the city, and stoned him to death. In the crowd, on the side of the mob, was a man who would later be known as St. Paul.
- Patron Saint Index
Stephen is the first martyr. He was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles to organize the distribution of food to the poor. He performed many miracles and confounded the Jews in disputation. They fabricated false charges against him. At his trial he preached the risen Christ to them, so they stoned him to death. He prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. One of them, Saul of Tarsus, who was looking after the cloaks of the stone-throwers, was later converted and became the great missionary St Paul.
Ps 30(31): 3-4,6,8,16-17
“…do not worry about how to speak or what to say…”
We just celebrated Jesus’ birthday. On this Boxing Day, while some may still be unboxing their gifts, let us take this time to recall the gift of St Stephen, who’s known as the first martyr of the Catholic church. We may wonder what is the link between birth and the coming of Jesus Christ and St Stephen. One way to reflect is to ask this saint to help us follow Christ with courage and to be fearless in our faith.
To be radical as the apostles of Christ were, we must first pray often and regularly, ask the Lord for an encounter with him so that our faith can come alive and can grow, so that we can understand the many mysteries of God – especially in understanding how much he loves us. He loves us so much that he was willing to be born a man, to suffer his passion and be crucified on the cross for us. For me, my first intimate encounter with Jesus was in 2015. My life since then has been transformed. There’s no more turning back to my past, to the person I was. I have been following Jesus closely ever since. Yet, as a follower, I know that there will be times when I will be afraid — of being ridiculed, of the sufferings that may come, and even of not knowing how to evangelise. Then I learnt that I just need to humble myself, be open, make myself available, and allow the Holy Spirit to take over; God will surely lead the way.
So, like in the gospel today, I need to learn to trust that “what (I am) to say will be given to (me) when the time comes”, and I “do not have to worry about how to speak or what to say”. I’ll admit that I’m not great with verbalising words. Growing up, I was quiet as a church mouse and would not speak up in class. As I became an adult, I grew to be a little more confident but I still had the fear of public speaking. But you know what? God has a funny, twisted way of equipping me with the necessary skills because to be his follower, there’s no room for one to be a church mouse nor a wallflower. Three years ago, I had a major career switch. I spent the entire 20 years of my career writing, and didn’t know how I could change my job in a way that I could serve him better. God provided, paved and led me on the educational pathway as a polytechnic lecturer. To be honest, teaching is not even on my list of career choices. I continued to stay open-minded and allowed God to work through me. Then, one of the first modules I had to teach was Effective Presentation – how to be a more effective communicator. The irony of what God was planning was certainly not lost on me.
Praise and thank God that now I am able to stand and speak in front of a group of people without quivering. But if you ask me, I’d still much prefer to “speak” through the written form – something that’s closer to my heart. Hence, I am most thankful that God has led me to become a contributor for Oxygen. He knows my heart best.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cynthia Chew)
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, you certainly know all of our fears, worries, doubts, and anxieties. May we empty ourselves so that you can fill us with your goodness, faithfulness, wisdom and love. Fill us with the right words to say to the people we meet each day, so that they will know the face of Jesus Christ who lives and reigns within us.
Thanksgiving: We are thankful for the many blessings but for today, we want to thank you for sending saints like St Stephen to remind us what it takes to follow Jesus and to try to lead a holier life.