Commentary on the Gospel of

Tamora Whitney-Creighton University's English Department & Joseph Johnson, cmf

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Yesterday was Christmas, and today we have the first martyr. In the timeline, Stephen wasn’t martyred the day after the nativity, (it was actually a couple years after the crucifixion, and the feast day  is from when his relics were found in the fifth century) but it still goes to show there were haters from the beginning. Stephen was a deacon in the early church, possibly the first deacon. He preached and debated and his words were from the Holy Spirit and he could not be refuted. Like Jesus says in the Gospel, “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Those who were disputing him were furious because they could not withstand his wisdom. When he said he had a vision Jesus standing at the right hand of God, they called it blasphemy and stoned him at the gates of Jerusalem. With his dying breath he forgave his assaulters and commended his spirit to the Lord.

And to this day the feast of Stephen is a day for charity, generosity, and almsgiving. Good king Wenceslaus went out on the feast of Stephen to deliver food and fuel to a poor man and encouraged his page to aid his charitable actions. The song ends, “You who will now bless the poor will yourselves find blessing.” In the United Kingdom Boxing day was set aside to give a small gift to those who have served you throughout the year. In Ireland Wren boys go house to house giving wren feathers for good luck in exchange for a treat, maybe a piece of Christmas cake. The first martyr St. Stephen’s dying charity has encouraged faith and charity around the world.


December 26

Though the new born King was poor and was in a stable, he brought along treasures which enriched Stephen the first martyr. It was the divine spark that Jesus left in his soul enabled Stephen to preach him to the crowd who wanted to stone him to death, to forgive his persecutors in Jesus’ name and to commend his spirit to the Lord. Stephen in his life and in death was very much similar to Jesus his master. He represents the cost of following Jesus. Stephen was given the consolation of the Spirit and the power of the Word as Jesus promised. As the name Stephen signifies ‘the crown’, his faithfulness and supreme love for Jesus won for him an imperishable crown. The witness of life of St. Stephen is challenge for us to make Jesus and his word relevant again in our world today without being afraid of the consequences. 


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