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Endure to the End
Gospel Reflection for December 26, 2022
“But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:17-22 NABRE)
Today is the feast of Saint Stephen, the first martyr. By his life and death, he demonstrated for us what it truly means to be a follower of our Lord Jesus. He allowed the Lord to live in and through him, and to speak through him to others, as Jesus told us would happen in today’s Gospel. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen proclaimed the truth to others. Yet, they did not receive his message of the Gospel.
Stephen said to them, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.” (Acts 7:51-53)
As a result of Stephen’s faith and of his allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through him to others, he was immediately hated. Those who heard his words became angry.
“But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.” (Acts 7:55-58)
This sounds similar to the people of today, who refuse to receive the message of the Gospel. Whenever Jesus comes up in conversation, people react much the same.
They become angry and cover their ears, unreceptive to the truth. They do not want to hear about God or to be bothered with the truth. They would rather remain in the dark.
Perhaps you’ve been in a situation before where you’ve tried to talk to others about Jesus, or tried to share your faith through example, but for one reason or another, they shut you out. Well, Jesus warned us in today’s Gospel that we would be hated because of His name.
Without fear of dying, Stephen responded to this hatred with love and acceptance.
“As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and when he said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60)
It can be very difficult to love and forgive those who hate us, and even hurt us, because of our faith.
Yet, we must remember that we are sinners ourselves, and if we desire to be loved and forgiven by God, we must love and forgive others.
So, even in the midst of trials and persecution, may we, like Stephen, faithfully persevere in loving God and others, knowing that “whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)