Feast of St. Stephen
Today is the feast of St. Stephen the Martyr, whose death by stoning is gruesomely retold in the first reading from Acts of the Apostles. This story stands in stark contrast to the readings from yesterday’s liturgies where we hear of angels singing “Gloria” and shepherds making their way to the manger where they find the Christ Child.
Yesterday we were receiving into our broken world Jesus, God made flesh; today we see people from many places rejecting Stephen for “working great wonders and signs among the people.” This juxtaposition is raw. It is a bit of a downer. But it’s the reality if we make a place for Jesus to be born in our hearts.
When the people heard Stephen, who is described as being full of grace and power, they gnashed their teeth and covered their ears. They wanted no part of what he was saying. They were to have none of it, so they ran him out of town and stoned him.
If we are honest with ourselves, there is much we don’t want to hear, either. We don’t want to hear over and again the stories of those abused by priests or how bishops covered it up. We don’t want to see Christ in the faces of immigrants longing for a better life. We avoid looking at families reeling from the scourge of opioids. It would be so much nicer just to hang out at the manger for a while.
But Jesus came into our world to take upon himself all that is broken and sinful and shameful in our lives. His Passion contains all our own passions. So rather than gnash our teeth or cover our ears, let’s take all that weighs us down and go back to the manger and place it there. That is why He has come, born of Mary, Savior of the world.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and was the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.