The Fruits of Faith, Love and Mercy

December 26: Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon

Acts 6:8-10.54-59/Ps.30:3-

The Fruits of Faith, Love and Mercy

Since the birth of Christ Jesus, every sinner is a possible saint and an heir to the kingdom of God. If those who believe in Christ Jesus embody his virtues, values, and valour then even the worse villain can experience God’s divine love, mercy, compassion and solidarity. Stephen embodied the persona of Christ. He personified the Beatitudes. Up until the end, he modelled Christ in his Passion and death.

On the Cross, Christ pardoned his persecutors and assassins. Stephen endured his vile accusers. He never diluted the divine truth under the threat of death. Like Christ, Stephen had his own transfiguration. He gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at his right hand of God. Standing before his accusers he boldly told spoke the truth. For the truth, he was condemned to death. While he was being stoned to death, he spoke the same language as his Lord and Master, ‘”Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” “’Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’” The punch line of this text is “Saul entirely approved of the killing (Acts.6:54-59).” What an impact this prayer had on the life of Saul hereafter. It was the beginning of Saul’s journey to sainthood.

Stephen imitated Christ both in life and in death. The words of forgiveness uttered even under the most stringent conditions are powerful and can have lasting ripples in the sea of Christ. Although Saul was the main culprit in Stephen’s death, by the power of Stephen’s utterances and the power of God’s compassion, love, mercy and solidarity we no longer have a Saul but a Paul who after his conversion worked wonders in the spread of the same gospel he detested and defied. Alive or dead our voices are effective in the transformation of the lives of others. Faith never surrenders under persecution, torment and death. Faith transcends all things for the greater glory of God.

The mission of the Church in the world is to do as Christ and Stephen did: to save the world, not to condemn even the vilest of sinners (Jn.3:17). Stephen’s life and death is a living testimony of what the Church can achieve through her prayers and the sacraments in a fallen world. Stephen gave the Church a gift though his imitation of Christ. In the heart of the Christmas Season, what gift shall we return to the Lord for all the good he is lavishing upon us? Living to love and to forgive, I suggest are priceless gifts the Lord will never refuse.

St. Stephen, pray for us that we may have the courage to love our enemies and to pray for the conversion of our persecutors.

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