Reflections on the Feast of St. Stephen

We are told from the first reading  (Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59)) recounting the martyrdom of St. Stephen— the first martyr of the church, a zealous man for the gospel, a man of service, a deacon, a dedicated Christian– that he was filled with the Holy Spirit.

UnknownBeing filled with the Holy Spirit is actually a very common theme in scripture. Peter also was filled with the Holy Spirit. The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Those who are baptized and confirmed had been filled with the Holy Spirit at their baptism and confirmation. The moment the minister of baptism says, “I baptize you in the name of the father and of the Holy Spirit”, and the moment the bishop laid his hands over the confirmed and anointed him/her with the Chrism oil, the person becomes filled with the Holy Spirit.

Here’s something we all need to realize: no one is filled with the Holy Spirit for his benefit alone. The first time Stephen was filled, he served and preached the gospel with deep eloquence and clarity. The second time we are told he was filled, no one could resist his logic or argumentation. He bore witness to the faith in the most privileged way, martyrdom. Peter was filled, he converted 3 thousands at once. Mary was filled/ overshadowed, she became pregnant while remaining a virgin. Elizabeth was filled, she recognized the “mother of her Lord” and gives us a good part of the Hail Mary we recite to this day “blessed are you among women….” Clearly, being filled with the Holy Spirit always leads to something extraordinary and bore expedient fruit for many.

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So, why do you think you were filled at your baptism and confirmation? Answer: to bear witness to the faith, to glorify God. As St. Iranaeus says: the glory of God is a human being fully alive in Christ. Jesus says: “I’ve come to give you life and give it to you abundantly”.

You received the Holy Spirit so that you may be another Stephen. Probably not by being stoned to death (we are not that blessed yet), but so that you may live your faith authentically despite peer pressure, forgive when you’re insulted, pray for those who hate or persecute you, hold back a reply, prioritize God’s ways over your ways, maintain faith despite doubts, hope against hope, love even you see no reason to.

Doing these consistently is dying for your faith. Doing these will get you to the final goal and how sweet will it be when you hear “well done good and faithful servant.” I know you want that. So make good use of the gift of the Holy Spirit ingrained in your soul.

Have a merry and Blessed Christmas!

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