Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gospel Reflection

December 26, 2012
Wednesday – Year of Faith
Feast of Saint Stephen – First Martyr
by Rev.  Fr. Joel Jason (Dean, Graduate School of Theology San Carlos Seminary)
Mass at Megamall, Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord

Reading 1 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 Ps 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 Mt 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."


Alam ko po na Paskong Pasko pa ang ating spirit. We still have the Christmas hang-over. At kaya naman siguro, magtataka kayo  sa ating Gospel for today, a day after Christmas, and the saint that we honor after Christmas is a martyr. It seems not congruent with the feast that we celebrated yesterday. Kahapon ang ipinagdiwang natin ay Pasko. Ngayon naman dito sa ating misa ang ating ginugunita ay kamatayan, ang pagiging martir.

Now there is a reason why the Church gives us St. Stephen, the first martyr, as a figure to reflect on, a day after Christmas. Why? Because Christmas is not only a sentimental event, with a baby born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. When you reflect on Christmas and on the figure of the Christ Child that was born, you will realize that Christmas is actually a revolutionary event. It is a dangerous event, and it is an event that will invite you to be a revolutionary in your life.

That is why you will notice that people are sometimes afraid of Christmas. Consciously or unconsciously, we are afraid of Christmas. At times, we do not even want to say Christmas.

A while ago, I was walking along a store that sells fruit juices. And on their door, there is a big greeting of Christmas. It says, "Merry Guyabano". (laughs) Because they are now selling a new product out of guyabano, and the greeting was "Merry Guyabano". Nawala na 'yong Christmas ano, 'yong guyabano na ang pinambati.

And in other countries nowadays, they do not even want to say Christmas. I was watching CNN several days ago, and there was a talk show, and the topic of the talk show was "A War on Christmas". Sabi nga, there is now a war on Christmas. Why? You will know that there are many holidays in the world. For example, if it is Valentine's Day, they say "Happy Valentine's". They say "Happy Hanukkah". They say whatever feast the Muslims have. But when it is Christmas, what do they say? Happy Holidays. They do not mention the word Christmas. Ano ba'ng meron sa Christmas?

I was reflecting on this, and this is what I thought. Christmas is a dangerous word. Why? Because the word Christ is in there. Kaya ayaw nating sabihin 'yong salitang Christmas, because Christ is in Christmas. And Christ is a dangerous figure. Why? Because Christ is a child, who, when he grows up, will challenge us to do something that is very demanding. And that is something that we do not want to accept.

This Child, whom we honored yesterday on the Feast of Christmas, will one day grow up and He will tell us that "I am the Way". And what do we want to say? "No, you are not the way. I am my own way." That is why when people sing at the videoke, their favorite song is "My Way". (laughs) Kasi 'yon ang gusto natin. I want to live my life, my way.

This Child, will say later on, "I am the Truth". And we want to say, 'No, there is no truth. I am my own truth. I will determine my own truth."

This Child will say later on, "I am the Life". And what do we want to say? "No, I want to live my life my own way. I do not want anyone controlling my own life."

This Child is a dangerous child, and he is a revolutionary. Later on, he will say that adultery is wrong. He will say that marriage is faithful and exclusive. He will say that lying is wrong. He will say that we should respect life, from the moment of conception until death. And we would not want to accept that, because it is dangerous, it is demanding. And so what do we do? Consciously or unconsciously, we take Christ out of Christmas. And we replace it with something less dangerous. 'Happy holidays' is very benign. It is non-threatening. And that is why we would rather greet one another with that kind of greeting.

Saint Stephen, the saint that we are honoring today, died in the name of Christ. And that is why a day after Christmas, we are being reminded that if you want to celebrate Christmas, you must, like Stephen, be ready to die. Maybe not a martyr's death, but you must be ready to die to yourself. Because Jesus will demand us something, if we want to have the life that He is offering.

That is why Christmas is only the feast for brave men and women. Men and women who are willing to die to self, so that they may have genuine, eternal life. As we continue with this Holy Eucharist, let that be our prayer. That we may become men and women who will truly profess that the Christ Child is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.  

Saint Stephen – Pray for us

You may also want to see: A Holy Life - Saint Stephen

A Holy Life

Saint Stephen

The First Martyr

Feast day – December 26

The Jewish origin of Saint Stephen is universally acknowledged; he is known and loved everywhere as the first follower of Christ to give to his martyred God love for love, blood for blood. It is not certain whether he was among the seventy-two disciples of Jesus; some believe he was of the Greek tongue and not a native of Palestine. He studied with Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas under the famous Doctor of the Law, Gamaliel, who, being a member of the Sanhedrin, attempted to stop the persecution of the Apostles. (Acts of the Apostles 5:34-40) What is certain, however, is that he distinguished himself among his brethren as an admirable Christian, replete with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To his great beauty and angelic chastity were joined humility, patience, gentleness and charity, so perfect that they drew from all the faithful great admiration and esteem for him.

He was head of the seven disciples whom the Apostles named as deacons, to execute the works of charity which their mandate to preach did not permit them to carry out. Stephen manifested all the qualities one could wish for in a minister of charity and of the Gospel. He knew Scripture to perfection and was steeped in its divine spirit; he was endowed with invincible force because he feared nothing in the service of God. Everywhere in Jerusalem, he was proving Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah, and working great prodigies to confirm the truths he taught. Some believe he was the cousin of Saul, later Saint Paul; in any case, the latter, still a fire-breathing Pharisee, took offense at his boldness and presided at the scene of his martyrdom by stoning. The fervent deacon, insensible to his own fate, defended Christ before the Jerusalem tribunal with a perfection which enraged the proud authorities of Jerusalem, unwilling to recognize a humble carpenter of Nazareth for their Saviour. He boldly upbraided the chief priests with their hard-hearted resistance to the Holy Spirit. And when he accused them of putting to death, just as their forebears had treated the prophets who foretold Him, the long-awaited Just One announced by Moses, they stoned him without further delay. (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 7)

Saint Stephen died, beholding his Lord standing at the right hand of God. He imitated Him in death; crying out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” He concluded on his knees, “Lord, do not impute to them this sin!” And then he fell asleep, the narrative says.

His mortal remains were left outdoors to be devoured by beasts, but were protected by God; and Gamaliel, the Doctor of the Law, took the body of the martyr to his own country home, a few leagues from the city, where he buried him. His tomb was discovered miraculously in the fifth century, by the intervention of Gamaliel himself in a priest’s dream. The greater part of his relics are still conserved in the Basilica of Saint Lawrence and Saint Stephen in Rome. His death was the signal for a great persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem, spurred on by Saul, who had approved his death. But Saint John Chrysostom remarks that because Stephen prayed, we have Saint Paul, whose conversion miraculously came about soon afterwards.


Sources for this article were taken from:



Loving God, Saint Stephen was one of the first deacons in the Church. The Apostles ordained him with six others because they needed ministers who would oversee the needs of the poor and the widowed. His holiness was so evident that when he preached to his enemies, his face glowed brightly like an angel's. I ask him to pray for those who have been called to a life of service as ordained deacons. O Lord, help them to be a sign of Your love in their parishes and in the world where they live and work. Bless them with a vision of their ministry that stirs them to passion and tireless effort. Amen.

Saint Stephen – Pray for us