The Gospel for the Mass for the Feast of St. Stephen is Matthew 10:17-22.

The day after Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, the Church reserves for the recognition of the Martyrdom of St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-59). Christ the King establishes His eternal Kingdom and saves His followers through His death and the Resurrection, welcoming them into the Kingdom. St. Stephen (who’s name means “crown”) is the deacon in the early Church who is the first martyr who receives the crown of the Kingdom. 

After being appointed by the Apostles to the order of deacons, Stephen is challenged to debate with various Jews. Stephen is filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks with wisdom that his attackers can not refute. Unsuccessful, the Jews accuse Stephen of blasphemy and drag him before the Jewish High Priest and the high court. Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, proclaims the truth about Christ and courageously rebukes the Jewish leadership for rejecting Christ (Acts 7:1-53). Despite the Jews’ insane rage, Stephen looks heavenward and proclaims “Behold, I see the heavens open, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” They forcefully drag Stephen out the city and stone him to death; Saul (the future Paul) oversees the stoning. Stephen, like Christ, prays for God to forgive his murders (Acts 7:54-60). 

Looking at today’s Gospel, Christ’s promises have come true with Stephen. Great King, Christ steels the disciples with promises of how He will make them victorious in battle. Rather than meekly submit to all persecution in fear, men are to reject anxiety and to be confident in Christ. Remarkably, Christ promises to send the Holy Spirit to actively speak through men in times of trial. Rather than fearfully denying Christ, men can be super-naturalized with the Holy Spirit. For Stephen’s faith in Christ’s promise, he is welcomed into Heaven as the first martyr of the Catholic faith.  

Awed by Jesus ChristPerson of the Trinity, Christ reveals that the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity and promises the Holy Spirit will be given to men to guide their word in times of persecution. Divine Prophet, Christ accurately foresees the persecution of the Apostles and keeps His promise to St. Stephen. Divine King, He calls disciples to heroic self-sacrifice and, with omniscience, gives precise instructions as to the tactics they are to use.     

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) While men often fail to keep their promises due to weakness, Christ never breaks a promise. Reflect upon how Christ’s promises of today’s Gospel are kept during St. Stephen’s persecution. 

2) St. Stephen was ordained to be a deacon by St. Peter and the Apostles, establishing the Order of Deacons.  Reflect upon the Order of Deacons (CCC 1536-1554, 1569-1600) and pray for Christ to guide and strengthen all men considering a vocation to the diaconate and all deacons. 

3) Denying Christ can be outright denial (e.g. “I reject Christ”) or to fail to publicly stand in the Name of Christ when necessary to oppose evil and/or to proclaim Christ to men. Failing to actively proclaim and bring souls to Christ is a sin of omission that is unworthy of a Catholic man. During Christmastime, reflect upon the Necessity of Faith and Perseverance (CCC 161, 1816, 1821) and pray for Christ to give you a heroic faith like St. Stephen.  St. Stephen, pray for us!