Monday 26 th december 2022
the first Martyr
– Feast –
Stephen is the first martyr. He was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles to organize the distribution of food to the poor. Angry Jews fabricated false charges against him and he was stoned to death. He prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. One of them, Saul of Tarsus, was later converted and became the great missionary, St Paul.
The gates of heaven were opened for blessed Stephen, who was found to be first among the number of the Martyrs, and therefore is crowned triumphant in heaven.
Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship, and so learn to love even our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
First reading : Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59
Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. They were infuriated when they heard what he said, and ground their teeth at him. But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep. Saul entirely approved of the killing.
R/ Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
- Be a rock of refuge for me, a mighty stronghold to save me, for you are my rock, my stronghold. For your name’s sake, lead me and guide me
2 Into your hands I commend my spirit. It is you who will redeem me, Lord. As for me, I trust in the Lord: let me be glad and rejoice in your love.
- My life is in your hands, deliver me from the hands of those who hate me. Let your face shine on your servant. Save me in your love.
Gospel Acclamation : Ps 117: 26. 27
Alleluia, alleluia! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; the Lord God is our light. Alleluia!
Gospel : Matthew 10:17-22
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’
Prayer over the Offerings
May these offerings of our devotion today, be acceptable to you, we pray, O Lord, for they are prompted by the glorious commemoration of Saint Stephen the Martyr. Through Christ our Lord.
Communion Antiphon : Acts 7: 58
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Prayer after Communion
For the many mercies which surround us we give thanks to you, O Lord, who save us through the Nativity of your Son and gladden us with the celebration of the blessed Martyr Stephen. Through Christ our Lord.
Yesterday we thanked God for granting us the dignity of being called his children through Jesus Christ; today God tells us that being his children implies facing persecution. The martyrdom of Stephen shows that as children of God, we do not belong to the world. The way of Christ goes contrary to the way of the world, and consequently the world hates his followers. When we stand up for justice and honesty, and promote peace and unity, we will encounter hostility and rejection. When these moments of trial come, let us not give up or be discouraged; rather, let us remember and hold on to the words of Jesus: “The man who stands firm to the end will be saved.”