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DECEMBER 26, 2011

DECEMBER 26, 2011

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

Reading 1: Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Psalm: Ps 31: 3-4, 6, 8, 16, 17

Gospel: Matthew 10: 17-22

It is the second day of Christmas; and our hearts are still celebrating with immense joy and gladness the GIFT of Christ to us. The singing of Christmas carols and greetings are vibrant and captivating. We carry within us the image of the Child in the crib which keeps our celebrations alive. We continue to share the gifts of the faith we have received in humble service of caring for others and for Mother Earth; and especially the gift of forgiveness. We commune with our loved ones and with friends. And, during this special season of the year, with Him and through Him, we receive the inner power of LOVE in being able to love, to be loved and to be reconciled with God and with each other. This is more than we can dream of to withstand the test of faith that our Gospel speaks about today.

Jesus warned his disciples about the prize they had to  pay for following Him; and for a life spent in his service.  Like their Master, they will suffer the same persecution that He did. Following Jesus is indeed  a costly enterprise, because  it is life unto death! But He was quick to reassure them that the Holy Spirit would be with them.  Therefore, Jesus’ invitation demands complete trust, total submission, and self- surrender.

St. Stephen, whose feast we are celebrating today, lived-out to the full Jesus’ words. He was a prophet in his own time; he was “filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit”, and was graced with inner strength to live up to what he believed!  In the course of his mission he radiated divine grace and apostolic zeal.” He died in imitation of Christ, his Divine Master. His life teaches us the basic truths of daily Christian living; namely, to love, and to learn day to day in Christ and with Christ.

In our case today, as Christians, suddenly there are instances when, in the midst of abundance, poverty knocks at our door, and an spontaneous attitude of joyful detachment is asked from us. In other instances, in order to become witnesses of Christ’s Love, an extra-mile of forgiveness and compassion is a Gospel demand.

What makes us wonder is that, oftentimes, this kind of Love is learned in the humiliations, the misunderstandings, and the betrayals that come our way. It is then that our faith is tested, enabling us to become real witnesses of our faith, as Saint Stephen was, if we only see God calling us to the greatest sacrifice.

Introspectively,  we are reminded today of the need to be ready to embrace any sacrifice that might come our way,  to give ourselves in self-donation to others and to life; and  to excel in good will,  in conscious imitation of our Lord and Savior.

“You will be hated by all because of Me, but whoever endures to the end will be  saved!”

We remember today, in a very special way, the martyrs of our own time. Recently, we have the example of the parish priest of Arakan, in Cotabato, Fr. Fausto Tenorio,PIME who made a clear choice to be with the last, the least, the lowly, and the lost. We have also the stories of the soldiers in Albarca, Basilan, who fought until the end to save their wounded comrades. They too have made a heroic option by laying down their lives so that others may live. And, if we open our eyes, we will be able to see many more examples of courage and faith!

We feel also intimately connected with our brothers and sisters around the world who maintain their fidelity to our Christian faith without yielding to compromises, sometimes at the price of persecution and death. We admire their example and pray that they may have the strength to persevere, knowing that their sufferings are the font of victory, even if at times is seemingly a failure. To everyone, once again, Merry Christmas!


Pool of Facilitator