With Christmas Day now in the rear view mirror and with the death of so many in Nigeria, we are reminded that the world indeed is a precarious place despite the fact that God comes to us as one of us.
St. Steven, the first Christian martyr knew that well and yet it didn’t deter him from proclaiming his faith, a faith that led him to be stoned to death.
From the book of Wisdom:
The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead.
But they are in peace.
We all know peaceful people. People who have this serenity and an unshakable faith. People who just seem comfortable in their own skin and who have a quiet confidence, rather than an arrogant one.
Imagine, if you would the family of St. Stephen, who had to endure his death. Did they think him foolish or peaceful? What comforted them after his death? Who could bring them peace?
The answer I believe that is proposed by Fran over at Pastoral Postings today is both accurate and touching:
One answer remains clear – the only answer really, the answer that is Christ the Lord. Christ comes in the form of a tiny, vulnerable baby. That tiny one however is the source of our transformation and new life! That is why in birth and in death, we have hope. As the reading from Wisdom points out – we may seem foolish, but we have the promise of peace.
Let us also remember that Stephen was alone while Paul, then Saul, held the coats of the stone throwers. A friend used to muse about the meeting of the two great saints in heaven. “And in the great embrace of the great saints,” he would say, “there are no need for words. And we find both forgiveness and understanding in their meeting again.”
Birth and death. These are the two facets that both start complete our life. And throughout our lives we will face disturbances that will cause us to feel small deaths and re-births. Confusion and conversion. Hopelessness and then vibrant hope. Desolation and consolation in Christ.
As we turn towards a new year, may we be granted the peace that Stephen had in life and in death. And may we have the courage by that peace to proclaim our faith without fear. And let us pray for those who are put to death, that God grant them now the peace and serenity of his Kingdom where they will live with him forever and ever. Amen.