Faith Daily | 26 December 2020
PRAYER of the Week| SAINT STEPHEN (First Martyr):
We give you thanks, O Lord of glory,
for the example of Stephen, the first martyr,
who prayed for his persecutors,
and looked to him who was crucified,
your Son Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, in glory everlasting.
GOSPEL for the Day: Matthew 10: 17-22
17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-60
8Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen.
But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.
GOSPEL Reflection: Contributed by Rev'd Jan
The Monday edition of The Australian newspaper this week ran an article “The season of hope for persecuted Christians”. The author, Jennifer Oriel, spent some time on humanity’s need for sacred spaces and practices. I quote her:
We venerate the sacred because it connects our ancestors to the living and souls yet to come into the world. It is the essence of the conservative tradition and the foundation of culture. More immediately, it provides a place of refuge from the transient worries of the world and sets our mind on higher things, God, divinity, truth and the better angels of human being. For the same reason, the sacred is a perpetual target of tyrannical regimes.
There are many countries listed as of “Particular Concern” for violating religious freedom. A common feature is the destruction of sacred Christian sites – and I quote Oriel again:
According to the latest World Watch List, 9488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked in 2019. An average of eight Christian people were killed a day for their faith.
Martyrdom for faith is not a thing of the past. It has always been with us. As we remember Stephen, the first Christian martyr, we note the challenge of his day being the day after Christmas Day, the celebration of the birth of Christ. His birth was no easy thing; to follow him is no easy thing.
FINAL PRAYER: from "Exciting Holiness" p445
who gave the first martyr Stephen
grace to pray for those who took up stones against him:
grant that in all our sufferings for the truth
we may learn to love even our enemies
and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt,
looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us,
Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.