Feast of St. Stephen, Proto-martyr
(Acts 6:8-10.7:54-59; Matthew 10:17-22)
This year as we celebrate Christmas with the usual flair, we should keep in mind the people of Venezuela. They are undergoing extremely difficult times. The poor in the countryside are dying of starvation despite the fact that Venezuela is rich with oil. In its desire to control all the goods of the country, the Venezuelan government has refused capitalist economic reform. The result has been disaster. Many professionals have left the country in droves and the economy has been on a downward spiral for years. The poor stay behind to suffer. There is a parallel here with today’s feast.
There is no reason to place the martyrdom of St. Stephen on the day after Christmas other than to remind Christians of the death the new-born savior will endure. His crucifixion seems like another case of evil crushing virtue. But his resurrection unleashes the Holy Spirit to enlighten human hearts. The first reading tells how Stephen spoke the truth to the promoters of Judaism. Refusing to hear it, they finally murdered its source. But Stephen’s death starts Paul on a path to conversion and apostleship. The persecution which Stephen’s martyrdom sparked likewise moves Christians out of Jerusalem to evangelize the world. Virtue is vindicated and evil is on the run.
Things should turn around in Venezuela soon. Certainly people of goodwill should not stand idly by while a government allows its nation’s children to die of hunger. We pray today that reform in Venezuela happens as soon as possible. We also live attesting to others about Jesus as Stephen, Paul, and all the apostles did.