SOMETHING IS NOT WORTH LIVING FOR UNLESS IT IS WORTH DYING FOR
"Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen."
Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep and crisp and even.
I love this paradox! Yesterday we celebrated the birth of the Savior, today we honor the death of the first Christian to die for professing his faith in that babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. St. Stephen is known as the first Christian Martyr (which means witness, one who gives testimony.)
Does it seem like the actions of 2000 years ago are far away? They are not. The Christ child is present in the world today and Christians are killed for giving witness to their faith as St. Stephen did. In fact, today a Christian dies for their faith every 5 minutes or 105,000/year.
Challenges for us on this second day of Christmas:
1. Read the best re-cap of salvation history in Stephen's Speech to the Council in Acts of the Apostles, chapter 7.
Something to think about: Read it out loud, or perhaps to a kid or two. And if you’ve gone through The Great Adventure, you’ll be amazed at how much this re-cap will bring that walk through salvation history rushing right back to your memory.
2. Reflect on what it means to be a witness for Christ today.
Something to think about: John’s Gospel uses the word martyr ("martyria") instead of evangelize showing Christians are always on trial before the world and called to give witness, to give testimony to Jesus. In court, a witness speaks from first hand knowledge. A witness is someone who has first hand knowledge. 1 John: “What we have seen with our eyes, what we have touched with our hands, we pass on to you.” This is true of every disciple of Jesus... we have first hand knowledge... we speak because we have intimate knowledge of Jesus. We have seen with our eyes of faith, heard with our ears in faith and touched with our hands in faith.
The ultimate witness is to give your life for the testimony of Jesus.
Jesus and the Gospel are more valuable than life itself
3. Pray for those giving their lives for the Gospel. Pray for the grace to be a witness to Christ yourself and pray the conversion of those, like St. Paul, who are persecuting or idly standing by and watching the persecution of Christians.
Something to think about: "The martyr's life reflects the extraordinary words uttered by Christ on the Cross: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do' (Lk 23:34). The believer who has seriously pondered his Christian vocation, including what Revelation has to say about the possibility of martyrdom, cannot exclude it from his own life's horizon. The two thousand years since the birth of Christ are marked by the ever-present witness of the martyrs." (Blessed John Paul II)
If you have to choose between Christ and your life, you must choose Christ. Today a Christian dies for their faith every 5 minutes or 105,000/year. The 20th century saw more Christians killed for their faith than all the other 19. (Massimo Introvigne, OSCE)
4. Pray for the conviction and to know without a shadow of a doubt that if the Lord brings you to that point where you have to make the choice, you can trust that He will give you the grace to be true to Him.
omething to think about: "For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved" (Romans 10:10). Christian faith includes two necessary things:
- Belief from the depth of the heart
- Externally confessing before other people
Christianity cannot be private. If you are a follower of Jesus, stand up like St. Stephen and be counted. When given the opportunity, publicly confess even if it means paying the price.
Come Holy Spirit!