At Christmas we don't wish each other perfect lives but only "comfort and joy." This is what I look for: not an end to struggle, but a level of understanding and adjustment so that we can say to each other, "Merry Christmas."
But understand how important it is and how central to the Christmas message, to be merry, to have a hopeful, positive, and optimistic attitude, even if your health is bad or if life is not at its best. The infant Jesus is lying in a barnyard crib, and yet the emotional atmosphere is glorious and full of hope. What a lesson for us living in a time of worldwide conflict and personal challenges.
—from the book The Soul of Christmas by Thomas Moore
✞ "In a world gone astray from God there is no peace, but it also lacks charity, which is true and perfect love... Nothing is more beautiful than love. Indeed, faith and hope will end when we die, whereas love, that is, charity, will last for eternity." — Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
✞ MEDITATION OF THE DAY "We might say the whole mystery of our redemption in Christ, by his incarnation, his death and his resurrection, consists of this marvelous exchange: in the heart of Christ, God has loved us humanly, so as to render our human hearts capable of loving divinely. God became man so that man might become God—might love as only God is capable of loving, with the purity, intensity, power, tenderness, and inexhaustible patience that belong to the divine love. It is an extraordinary source of hope and a great consolation to know that, by virtue of God's grace working in us (if we remain open to it by persevering in faith, prayer, and the sacraments), the Holy Spirit will transform and expand our hearts to the point of one day making them capable of loving as God loves." — Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 67-8 AN EXCERPT FROM Interior Freedom
✞ VERSE OF THE DAY "Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name." 1 Peter 4:16
SAINT OF THE DAY
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Saint of the Day for December 26 (d. c. 36 )
"As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Greek-speaking Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, 'It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit…" (Acts 6:1-5).
Acts of the Apostles says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people. Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen, but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.
In his speech, Stephen recalled God's guidance through Israel's history, as well as Israel's idolatry and disobedience. He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit. "…you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors" (Acts 7:51b).
Stephen's speech brought anger from the crowd. "But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.' …They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. …As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' …'Lord, do not hold this sin against them'" (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).
Reflection Stephen died as Jesus did: falsely accused, brought to unjust condemnation because he spoke the truth fearlessly. He died with his eyes trustfully fixed on God, and with a prayer of forgiveness on his lips. A "happy" death is one that finds us in the same spirit, whether our dying is as quiet as Joseph's or as violent as Stephen's: dying with courage, total trust and forgiving love.
Saint Stephen is the Patron Saint of: Deacons
Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr
Reading 1 Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59
Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Responsorial Psalm Ps 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17 R. (6) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety. You are my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake you will lead and guide me. R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God. I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy. R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your kindness. R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Alleluia Ps 118:26a, 27a R. Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD: the LORD is God and has given us light. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 10:17-22
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."
Meditation: Matthew 10:17-22
Saint Stephen, The First Martyr (Feast)
It will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:20)
It's the day after Christmas. We are still basking in the glow of the star of Bethlehem, the glorious angelic chorus, and the soft lowing of the animals in the stable. Then along comes Stephen to shake us up. Why does the Church put a martyr's feast before us on the very day after Christ's birth?
Perhaps a better question might be why Jesus took on human flesh in the first place. We know that he came to bring new life, to restore creation to his Father, to dispel sin, and to fill us with his Spirit. And Stephen is the perfect embodiment of this new life. He shows us what a living witness to Christ looks like. He shows us what a vessel of the Holy Spirit can accomplish.
As a deacon, Stephen tirelessly served the Church. Speaking with the leaders in the synagogue, he offered words of wisdom and inspiration. When faced with the threat of death, he found strength and inspiration in the Spirit. And in his martyrdom, he saw heaven itself, complete with Jesus enthroned in glory. All this happened because Stephen had learned to rely on the Spirit.
Yes, Stephen was a great hero. He stands as a symbol of courage, conviction, and Christian joy in the face of great danger. But don't forget that you have access to the very same Spirit who formed and strengthened Stephen. You, too, can become a hero like him. You may not be called to martyrdom. You may not face overt persecution. But you will have countless opportunities to shine the light of Christ into the darkness of sin, confusion, fear, and hatred.
The Church needs you. Nothing can turn the tide raging against the gospel more powerfully than the joy-filled, confident witness of people who are filled with the Spirit. So take Stephen as your model. Let yesterday's celebration fuel your determination to build up Jesus' Church and proclaim his good news today.
"Jesus, you are more than a baby in a manger. You are the One who brings the life of heaven to earth! Fill me with your Spirit so that I can be your witness."
Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59 Psalm 31:3-4, 6, 8, 16-17
my2cents: A sister at Redeemedonline.com challenged everyone to wish everyone Merry Christmas until February 2nd. To be an oddity? Or to remind everyone of the great gift? The Holy Word said today: "Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people." And the greatest gift was the sign of love, of giving his very life for the Gospel, but more....the love of Jesus, becoming Jesus, persecuted for simply being in love with Jesus our Lord and our God, indeed, still called a blasphemy this very day.
We pray on " Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit" In its context: " For you are my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead me and guide me. Free me from the net they have set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, LORD, God of truth. You hate those who serve worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD." Jesus came in at an appropriate time, the greatest. Where darkness had taken over, or just about, and He began with a human spark, conception.
Our Lord said today: ""Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts....You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved." Bishop Barren said today: "Friends, today we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephen. The Gospel tells us to expect persecution. Martyrs like Stephen are witnesses who have given their lives for the faith, participating in the bloody death of Jesus himself. They are part of the great chorus that gives praise to Christ in heaven. The Lamb has become their shepherd, leading them to springs of life-giving water. "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." This is an eschatological hope, one held out for us in God's definitive future. But a terrible price was paid, and a terrible war was waged. Their robes are washed clean, but in the blood of the Lamb. Please notice the presence of martyrdom up and down the ages, to the present day. The twentieth was the Christian century with the most martyrs ever, in fact more than all the other centuries combined. The most persecuted religion on planet earth today is Christianity. St. Stephen, pray for us!"
Why should we begin the 4th week of advent facing the darkness? Because, we have our Lord with us now, the light that is growing. I say this, for where there is something bad going on, smoke, there's fire. Fire of light. Fire of purifying love. The fire of God's love. The fire growing.
But consider it like this analogy as I try to put things into perspective: this weekend on the eve of Christmas Eve, my daughter walked outside where I was working on something on the back of my truck and the conversation ensued something like this: Daughter: "BOO!" Father: "Whoa, why are you trying to scare your father?" Daughter: "what are you doing out here?" Father: "I'm making a sign to hang for all to see the light" Daughter: "It's a little late isn't it?" Father: "It is never too late, better late then than never". Then the conversation dwindled and she went back inside saying it was cold outside. I finished the cross shape lights I was doing with a golden circle towards the middle. I went to hang it on a windmill by the side of the road. After I got everything ready, a makeshift safety device, a hanger to haul up the cross, and so forth, and I had to jump up to the first step, so I held on to one side with my left arm and jump/hoisted my self and OUCH! I pulled a muscle group hooked to my elbow. Boy it was painful from there on out to hold on to the ladder as I still went for it, hauling up the cross. I offered it to our Lord, something good must come out of this. I was now worried I would not be able to play the guitar for the Posadas and for the Mass, the various Masses. So, I prayed. I prayed before Posadas and Mass kneeling at the Blessed Sacrament. I did pray for help in healing but more that I could serve right. And so, after the various compliments on how well the choir sang, I realized the truth, this hurt muscle caused the great gift to the Mass, it was my sacrifice. It was my offering. What I am saying is that Saint Stephen offered Himself. What I am saying is that God to this day is offering Himself. We are one with Him, aren't we?
To this day, persecutions exist, against life, against religion, but they only serve to shine the light. We are in for it, aren't we? Last night, for my birthday, I treated myself to a movie I've been wanting to watch for a long time: Hacksaw Ridge. I had just bought our family a TV speaker soundbar to watch movies on our movie nights so I wanted to sit and enjoy. My mother in law an brother in law spending the night watched with me. The gory and bloody movie finally ended, leaving me with various thoughts: The dark bloody battle showed that hope is alive. Because once people retreat, saving their own lives, one is still there seeking the dying. It is Jesus, isn't it? Who would dare go back into a living hell to save a soul? Not a single person would except one with this thing called....love. But it is not a thing, right? It is God. And so, on some of the longest darkest nights of the year, Jesus is celebrated as being born....the light will now begin to take over the darkness. About 100 men went in a battle. Whence retreated, one man stays to save 75. Alone. Facing the devil. What causes this courage again? JESUS Believe it or not. All these were left for dead, but they were alive and brought back to life.
Jesus came back and comes back still to this day. Look at your hands after receiving the Eucharist. Do they glisten? Are there morsels of His body? Remnants left? Yes. We now have this courage, this love. These things of great power to become...the least
I took this pic as Mass was about to start on Christmas Eve
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