Saint Stephen

saint stephen

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Remember the song, Good King Wenseslaus?  It begins, “Good King Wenseslaus looked out, on the feast of Stephen.”  That would be today.  December 26, the day after Christmas.

In her wisdom, the Church has scheduled this feast on this particular day.  Yesterday we celebrated the birth of the only person ever to come down from heaven and become man.  Today we remember the first person to leave earth and go to heaven as a martyr.

Saint Stephen is particularly important to me as he was the first deacon.  The Apostles were trying to take care of everything in the new Church and they were having a hard time of it.  The Greeks were grumbling that their widows weren’t being served properly.

So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.  Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
Stephen would be put to death, by order of Saul of Tarsus who would later become Saint Paul.  As they told us often in formation for the diaconate, “Stephen was doing just fine until he opened his mouth.  Then they stoned him to death.  Let that be a lesson to you.”
But the real lesson, I think, is that there’s no gain without risk.  As disciples of Christ, we have two choices.  We can remain quiet and do little to help our brothers and sisters obtain eternal life, or we can take the risk of speaking out.  It’s unlikely that we’ll be stoned to death in the twenty-first century, but we still take a chance of offending someone.  But isn’t that a risk we have to take?

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