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Monday, December 26, 2011

St. Stephen the Martyr: A Reminder that it's not all About the Feast

The Christmas season is filled with joy and celebration, but the Church in her wisdom also gives us a sober reminder. Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. What is particularly interesting to me about its placement on the day after Christmas is the fact that St. Stephen suffered death as he experienced a vision of heaven, "the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55)

So even as Stephen suffered a painful death by stoning, he was on the threshhold of the greatest party mankind will ever experience, the banquet of the Lamb. And it may very well have been Stephen's prayers and sacrifice that led to the conversion of St. Paul who "was consenting to his death." (Acts 7:59)

While we enjoy all the delights of the twelve days of Christmas, visiting with family and friends, reminiscing about Christmases past and looking forward to a new year with hope, let's remember the thorn upon the rose. This life will never be without suffering even in the midst of celebration. What a blessing if we all accept that suffering as Stephen did, particularly when it involves persecution, and call on Jesus saying, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."

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