Yet, it is a jolting shift in gears to move in the Church’s liturgical calendar to today, when we commemorate the feast of St. Stephen the Martyr, a person violently killed for his faith in Jesus of Nazareth. I am reminded of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 song, “Silent Night -7 o’clock News” which begins with the hymn, ‘Silent Night’, but is gradually drowned out by a broadcast of the news of violence in our society. It was jarring back in the 60’s and still shatters the sense of peace and joy of the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, the song’s message of violence in our world overshadowing the message of peace is all too real today.
I initially resisted reflecting on today’s readings...feeling very ‘out of sync’ with the season of anticipation and hope during Advent and the celebration of Christmas.
However, upon patiently waiting to open to God’s spirit, and prayerfully reflecting with the scriptures of the day, perhaps these readings may bring a powerful message of the season.
In the reading from Acts, Stephen is “... filled with the Holy Spirit, witnessing his belief in Jesus, sent by God and now standing at the right hand of God” and, “...working great wonders and signs among the people”. However, some of the listeners were infuriated by Stephen’s proclamations and challenges to the people, regarding their lack of living out the call of the prophets to turn to God and live out their belief. Their anger and frustration resulted in stoning Stephen to death.
Today’s Gospel continues the theme of violence, as Jesus warns his followers, “Brother will hand over brother to death, and the parents their children; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name.”
What happened to the message of Christmas - that God loves us and is among us?
How am I/ are we living out the message of Christmas? Do we truly believe that God lives with us and among us and in each one of us? Do our lives proclaim this belief that we are all of God in our day to day encounters with our family, friends, co-workers? Global peace is something for which we all fervently pray and hope, yet how do our national and international policies promote the building of the kinship of God?
Where and when are each of us called to announce, through our day to day actions, that God is in our midst...and how do we respond when challenged by the perspectives of others?
My prayer today is that I/we may quietly reflect on the true spirit and call of Christmas...
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