"The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." ~Tertullian, Apologeticum, 197 AD
Protomartyr St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is commemorated on the day after Christmas, December 26. In this way our minds are turned towards the love the Savior brings, love which St. Stephen shows us in a most exemplary way. Jesus came as a Babe, but He came to die in ransom for us. We are called to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, even to the offering of our lives. St. Stephen readily gave his life and with great charity, prayed for his executioners as he submitted to them, just as his Divine King had done. His death is not a sad event, for it was his birth into eternal life!
The blood of St. Stephen was shed at the feet of Saul of Tarsus, only a couple of years after the crucifixion of Our Lord. That blood was the seed that would spring to life in Saul. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that Saul accepted the cloaks of those who eagerly stoned St. Stephen. But Saul was to be miraculously converted on the road to Damascus, renamed Paul, and go on to evangelize and convert the Gentiles.
December 28 is the feast of the Holy Innocents, child martyrs who were sacrificed in a bloody frenzy ordered by Herod to find and eliminate the newly arrived Messiah. (Warned in a dream, St. Joseph, foster father to Jesus, took his family and fled to Egypt, thereby keeping safe the Savior). Not Christians, but martyred FOR Christ, they also enjoy the bliss of Heaven.
We are all called to defend Jesus Christ in word and deed, even to the offering of our lives. There are those in the Middle East who are refusing to deny Our Lord, and who are gaining the crown of martyrdom even today. And there are the holy innocents in the aborted unborn, who are being offered as a sacrifice to secular security, in denial of the life giving Creator.
Our insulated lives in the West leave us weak and withering. We must strengthen our resolve, discipline our souls and be prepared to stand in the Truth, Who is Jesus Christ. He came that we might have life. Let our lives give Him glory. Let us be willing to suffer for Him. If we already suffer, let us offer it to Him and through Him, that others might also live in Him. This Christmas, make a gift of yourself. Be a sign of the hope we have in Christ.
December 9, 2014