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the first martyr (entered heaven in 34)
I have always thought that the coincidence of your birthday and your patron saint’s day both occurring today is more than mere coincidence. If it weren’t the day after Christmas, maybe it would be mere coincidence, but since it isn’t, it can’t be. Here’s what I mean.
Yesterday we celebrated the entrance of our King into our exile; today, St Stephen’s day, we celebrate the exit of the first Christian soldier from this exile and his entrance into the King’s eternal palace. Now there’s a heckuva lot of wisdom in the Church’s arranging things like that. The whole reason that Christ became a man was to lead us to heaven. So we have these celebrations back-to-back, like back-to-back homeruns: the Savior bursts asunder the darkness of sin, and a sinner bursts into the brightness of Glory. Now, your having been born on St Stephen’s day, and your having received the Christian name of Stephen must be a part of this finely orchestrated plan. In my humble and avuncular opinion (which is rarely erroneous), it means that God is calling you to be, like Stephen, a mighty witness (that’s the literal meaning of the word “martyr”) of Christ and his Kingdom.
You remember Stephen’s story, I am sure. It is found right in the book of Acts, Chapter 7. He was that courageous deacon falsely accused by jealous leaders of the Jewish congregations in Jerusalem and brought before the Sanhedrin (the governing court of the Jewish people). He gave a fiery and brilliant defense of the true faith, and witnessed boldly with word, with his bearing, and, tragically but gloriously, with his very life, for his enemies were so enraged that they executed him as a blasphemer, hurling stones at him until he died. During the execution, a young member of the Jewish elite, Saul (the future St Paul), stood by guarding the cloaks of the murderers. He didn’t join in throwing stones, but he watched and participated nonetheless, and so he heard Stephen beg forgiveness for the executioners with his dying breath.
Stephen’s example of fidelity to Christ and charity to his neighbors staid with the young Saul, as is shown by the way he refers to the event in his letters, and contributed greatly to his conversion. And I just have this intuition that your path is going to be similar. I don’t know if God will ask you for the sacrifice of bloody martyrdom, but I do know that he is going to ask you for courageous testimony, and that if you respond generously, your life is going to win over many and powerful people to the cause of Christ. Don’t ask me why I am so certain of this, just trust me – and decide now that whatever God asks you in the future, near or far, you will give it to him, for the sake of his Kingdom and for the glory of his Name, as well as for your own happiness and fulfillment.
Your devoted uncle,