Feast of St. Stephen, ProtoMartyr

Father Nick offering Divine Liturgy for the sisters. 
The following homily is by Fr. Herbert Nicholls at the Mother of Light Convent on Thursday, December 27, 2018.

For the past few weeks we have been listening to some of the most heartwarming music and seen pleasant programs on TV, but now its over. 

The Gospel today seems to fracture the Christmas cheer. The Lord seems to draw a desolate picture of split families, the betrayal of parents by children and vice versa. Tell us, O Ghost of Christmas, is all this really the way things have to be or just the way things might be?

Certainly, Jesus came as a sign of contradiction. The proclamation of forgiveness and eternal life requires separation from our self-centered past. And all the wonderful things about which we sing occur only when our hearts begin to open to others around us. 

The understanding of Christmas demands a break from the pattern of past behaviors, perhaps even a distancing from friends, co-workers or even family members who would trivialize and seek to reverse our conversion. The process of becoming truly Christian can be a lonely and even heroic act. But with it comes everlasting life. If we honestly want to break with the past, the Lord will help us not so much with the example of Scrooge but with that of Stephen, who after all was a human being like us.

Stephen was not supernaturally conceived. No angels heralded his birth. No Magi came to acknowledge his greatness. But he chose to convert his life from darkness to light. With his baptism, he was filled with the Holy Spirit as we are.

In the life of Stephen we see God embrace our weak human nature so that we might know the power of His Divine Spirit. The Liturgy calls this surrender of our self-centeredness and the embracing of God’s grace as a holy exchange of wills. 

Stephen’s discipleship and heroism were not unique but was the example for many hundreds of thousands of martyrs and millions of other Christians every day. It is the same Holy Spirit who fills us when we give our lives fully to the Lord. 

Only then will the promise of Christmas: peace and good will come true in our lives, and through us in that of our society.