Feast of St. Stephen, First Martyr
Today we commemorate the martyrdom of Stephen – the proto-martyr. Suffering for truth is inevitable in Christian living. As the popular saying goes the sugar coated lies are more appealing than bitter truths. A Christian is called to speak the truths even if it may not be pleasing to the mediocre lives. Thus, Christian life is always demanding and radical. Due to this radicalism, all won’t be able to bear everything that Jesus has asked of his disciples to do. The inevitable consequence of this is affliction and persecution. The radicalism challenges us to question the unjust practices in the society. Christianity is not a religion of self-righteousness but is one of communitarian salvation. We see it in the defense of Stephen wherein he accuses the Pharisees of giving greater value to material temple rather than the living God himself. The result of it is stoning. Jesus’ life is the supreme example for this. He questioned the corrupt and inauthentic life of Pharisees and Sadducees and other religious leaders, he whipped all those who profaned the temple through their business and the result is oppression from the forces of evil and his crucifixion. But the Gospel passage gives us assurance and reward. The assurance is that of the Holy Spirit who would comfort and speak for the persecuted. The reward is salvation for all those who stand firm to the end.