St. Stephen, "of whom the world was not worthy" (Heb 11:38, RSV-CE), modeled perfect discipleship and testified to God's all-consuming love. The deacon Stephen (Acts 6:4-6) knew he was called to be a servant: "Those who serve well as deacons gain a worthy place for themselves and much assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus" (1 Tm 3:13). Beyond dedicated and selfless service, Stephen displayed sacrificial, crucified love. "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13).
Are we willing to boldly proclaim to the world that we are a disciple of the risen Jesus? Will we cry out with Stephen: "Look!...I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God's right hand"? (Acts 7:56) Humanly, it is impossible to muster up the courage to praise and pray in this way. Nonetheless, "do not be afraid" (Acts 18:9). Jesus and the Father have sent a "Counselor, the Holy Spirit," to help you (Jn 14:26, RSV-CE). "The Spirit too helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech" (Rm 8:26).
Jesus therefore tells us, His unworthy disciples, "When they hand you over, do not worry about what you will say or how you will say it. When the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you" (Mt 10:19-20). With St. Stephen, "receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn 20:22), the true Christmas spirit.
|Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant the Nihil Obstat ("Permission to Publish") for One Bread, One Body covering the period from December 1, 2009 through January 31, 2010.
†Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 4, 2009.