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The Spirit of God Is Faithful
Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr
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.”
Opening Prayer: My God, I believe you are present and active in this moment of prayer and always. Open my heart to hear your Spirit’s promptings and respond with generosity and love. I believe you are here with me, that you have something to say to me, and by your grace, I wish to respond in trust and love. Mother Mary and St. Joseph, be with me and draw me close to the mangerside, that I may adore the infant Lord in my heart.
- The Infant King and the Risen Christ: This is quite a passage for meditation the day after Christmas, yet perhaps not so strange after all, when we consider the saint whose feast we celebrate today: St. Stephen, the first martyr. He was one of the first group of deacons set apart among the first followers of Christ for the ministry of service. Today we recall in the Mass his ultimate witness of life and death to the risen Christ. The infant King whose coming we celebrate in these Christmas days is the same Christ who would die and rise again, and to whom thousands of martyrs, known and unknown, have witnessed to, and continue to witness to, over the centuries and still do today. No Christian is alone in giving witness to Christ. St. Stephen is among the crowd of witnesses that encourage us by their example and intercede for us through their prayers. Let us pause here in prayer and be strengthened by the company of these heavenly friends.
- Christ Is the First Witness: Christ’s words paint a stark contrast, one which makes sense only within the context of the redemption he has won for us. Being handed over, scourged, judged and hated—there’s nothing to be made light of in any of this. But Christ tells us it is the Spirit of the Father speaking through us which gives witness. Our job is not to come up with brilliant and convincing words. Perhaps it’s not even to convince anyone at all. Rather, it is to endure to the end—not to worry about what to say, but to be receptive to the Spirit who will speak through us, if only we lend our voice and heart in witness. This would be a hard pill to swallow if we did not first have the example of Jesus. From the manger to the tomb he gives witness to us of the fidelity of God. Let this reassuring message of Christ settle in the soul, in those places where it is most needed.
- Handing Over: Christ does not promise an easy journey through this life back to his heart. His own journey through this world was hardly easy. Contemplating the manger and the tiny babe snuggled amid linen bands for clothing and straw for warmth, we see the beginnings of the simple life he embraced for our sake. We see the example he invites us to follow. See the newborn as the infant King is passed from hand to hand among the shepherds who came to see and adore him. No one is too poor to receive him. For now, he knows the strength and comfort of Joseph’s and Mary’s hands. Soon, he would know the whip and the cross under the cruel hands of the soldiers. But he also teaches us that we have nothing to fear, no real cause for worry, for whatever life may “hand over” to us, we are always held in the Lord’s loving hands—hands that will always bear the wounds he suffered for love of us and with us.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, you are the one to whom I can “hand over” all my worries, for you are the one who already–faithfully–holds me. As I contemplate you in Mary’s arms, strengthen my faith—you are always holding me, too. Attune my heart to listen to your Spirit’s promptings so that I can let you speak through me. You are faithful, Jesus. Let this be the great conviction of my life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will try not to worry about what to say or not to say, but will ask the Holy Spirit to speak through me. At the day’s end, I will look to see if I have done so.
For Further Reflection: Read the account of St. Stephen’s witness to Christ with his life and his death, in Acts 6-7.
Beth Van de Voorde is a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman, currently serving in pastoral ministry to families in Madrid, Spain. When she’s not reading Ratzinger or humming along to some song or another, you may find her making her pilgrim way through Spain’s timeless history of faith, walking alongside the beautiful families she’s there to serve.