Father Steve Grunow offers his homily on this the great feast day of the first of the Church's Martyrs — Saint Stephen, who also happens to be Father Steve's namesake. In a time of continual religious persecution around the world, the witness and martyrdom of St. Stephen speaks to the Church in a powerful way.
Today the Church remembers the witness of Saint Stephen, the first of the Church's martyrs. The cruelty of his death is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, as is the manner in which he died, transforming the violence that took his life into an occasion to give witness to an authority greater than those fallen powers who would rule us by fear and threats.
That the Church remembers Saint Stephen today is no accident. Strip away the sentimentality that obscures the story of Christ's Nativity and one realizes that Christ came into this world, and from the first instant he showed his infant face, he was opposed. Recall yesterday's excerpt from the magnificent prologue to the Gospel of John which testifies that Christ came to his own (us) and his own (again, that means us) "knew him not." But worse than this- we refused him.
And many still do...
Father Steve offers his homily for your reflection on this the great feast day of the first of the Church's Martyrs- Saint Stephen.
Yesterday, Christmas day, Islamic militants in Nigeria set off numerous car bombs strategically located outside of Christian churches. At last count, 27 people were dead and dozens were injured. The worst devastation happened outside a Catholic church, as the explosion was timed to coincide with the exact moment that the faithful were leaving after attending Mass.
Such atrocities are not limited to Nigeria. A recent survey of religious persecution throughout the world identified Christians as individuals or groups as most frequently targeted by persecution and violence. Our experience might be otherwise, but for many Christians, practicing and professing the Faith is dangerous business..