Thursday, December 27, 2012

"On the feast of Stephen"

Father Stephen’s Homily & Reflection for Wednesday, December 26, 2012 during the Octave of Christmas on the Feast of St. Stephen. 

It’s sort of a jolt to celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephen on the very day after Christmas. Yesterday, it was the angels singing the good news, and all is calm, all is bright was the mood of the day, but now we switch gears quickly and celebrate the martyrdom of Stephen, the first martyr of the Church – certainly nothing calm or bright about a martyrdom.

However, I do believe that our feast today reminds us of why the Lord Jesus came to earth in the first place. He came to earth, was placed in a wooden manger, so that some 33 years later he could be placed on a wooden cross to die for our sins, to bring us salvation. From the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross, Jesus comes to save us. He comes to save us and invites us to accept his invitation into his kingdom. However, the entrance into his kingdom calls us to follow him – his words and his actions. So therefore, if we wish to belong to his kingdom then eventually we will go to the cross.

Jesus told us as much as he told us that we must pick up our cross and follow after him.
If we wish to follow Jesus then we will go to the cross. Following the Lord is not always easy because many people will refuse the invitation and those who refuse will make it difficult, make it hard on those who accept. Once again, from the Lord’s mouth we hear that three will be against two and son against father and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law. If we accept his invitation the cross will be a part of our lives, just as surely as it was a part of St. Stephen’s life.

When we accept Christ we accept not only the tiny babe in the manger with all is calm all is bright, but we also accept the fact that Jesus calls us to follow in his footsteps from the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross. So then, like St. Stephen we can expect trials and tribulations and perhaps even death as we follow the Lord because if we follow the Lord, then we will be lead to the cross. In the words of another great saint, Saint Bonaventure, “there is no other way except through the burning love of the crucified.”

Today let us go visit Christ as he lies in his manger bed and ask him to give us the courage and strength to follow after him as did St. Stephen, knowing full well that it will take us to the cross. It will take us to eternal life!

God Bless,
Father Stephen McKinley, OFM Conv
Rector of the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe
Spiritual Advisor to the MI for the USA & Canada

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