December 26, 2016
Feast of St. Stephen
“Christ In You, The Hope Of Glory”
The Responsorial Psalm is the Christian response to death: “Into your hands, O Lord, I entrust my spirit” (Psalm 31).
Acts 6:8 to 7:59 reminds us that the Good News is good news even when it seems to be bad! Stephen is stoned to death by his own people for proclaiming Jesus. But before they attacked him, “filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” That is what gave him the faith, the hope and the love to pray, while they were stoning him, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Because of Jesus, even death is good news!
What enraged Stephen’s hearers was the truth. Stephen gave a short summary of God’s dealings with his Chosen People. It was a history of God’s fidelity and their infidelity. God called and blessed his people; then they rejected him; then he rescued them. Over and over.
After God made the covenant with Abraham, his descendants sold their brother Joseph into slavery. But God used Joseph to rescue them from famine. Through Moses he led them out of slavery in Egypt. But they “were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.” God still brought them into the Promised Land. There Solomon built the Temple — which Jesus, and later Stephen, were both accused of wanting to destroy (Mark 14:58; 15:29; John 2:19; Acts 6: 13-14). But the temple that God promised “David’s son” would build (1Samuel 7: 12-13) was greater than this.
Both Jesus and Stephen were rejected for offering something better than what people were used to. “The Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands,” but in the living Son of God made flesh and in his living body still on earth, the Church. This is the mystery of salvation. It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians. 1:27). The mystery of salvation is to “be Christ” by sharing Christ’s own divine life. Because we have Christ’s eternal life within us, when death comes we say with Jesus (Luke 23:46) and Stephen, “Into your hands, O Lord, I entrust my spirit.”
Jesus warns us in Matthew 10: 17-22 that we too will be persecuted: “You will be hated by all because of my name.” But not to worry: “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” We too will say with faith, hope and joy, “Into your hands, O Lord, I entrust my spirit.” This is the good news that erases all bad news.