It is 26th December 2019. We celebrate the Feast of St Stephen, the First Martyr and one of the seven deacons. The entrance antiphon hails him, “The gates of heaven were opened for blessed Stephen, who was found to be first among the number of the Martyrs and therefore is crowned triumphant in heaven.” The readings are from Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59 and the Gospel from Matthew 10:17-22. Right after the celebration of Christmas, we have been given someone who followed Jesus to a brutal death. Martyrdom is still revered as the highest form of holiness, on the top of the list that does not require any other proof of faith except giving one’s life. By celebrating the feast of Stephen, we are reminded gently that we all need to take a stand for Jesus like him. The first reading explains in detail the martyrdom of Stephen. He was a man of firm faith in Lord Jesus, the Son of God. His uncompromising preaching the crucified and risen Lord attracted the enemies of the truth and wisdom of the Father. Living and dying for Jesus until the last breath of our life is not a challenge posed to us but a privilege to celebrate. The responsorial Psalm surrenders in prayer, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” (Ps.31:6). There is no need to be afraid to live for Jesus even amidst quarrels, misunderstandings, frictions, betrayals, sicknesses, failures, financial constraints and all the challenges we face. Our life is the fragrant offering to the Lord when it is lived with gratitude for Him. The Holy Spirit will provide with all the necessary resources to continue standing up for Christ. The Gospel convincingly teaches us, “For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt. 10:20). Stones and abuse will be upon us one day for having lived a sincere and honest life for truth and charity. Even those who are so close to our family and friendship circles would betray us for having taken a stand for Jesus. Let us not be afraid of any human source that threaten us. Our peace comes from Jesus and by taking a stand for the Truth, Justice and reconciliation. Without being a powerful witness for Jesus, we remain boasting of our superficial faith at all the time. Let us emulate St. Stephen as a witness to Jesus without fighting against or condemning those who hate us and persecute us to the point of death. Courage comes from the Holy Spirit for those who vowed to take a stand for Jesus. Life of Christ and flames of the Holy Spirit that we enjoyed by the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation needs to be seen and celebrated on a daily basis through our humble yet powerful witness in our charitable interactions and faith encounters. May you have a good day. God bless you.