Today in Acts 7, we read about the martyrdom of St. Stephen. We’ll talk more about that in a moment. In the Gospel from John 6, we continue in the Bread of Life discourse. In fact, today we hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life.” If Jesus had stopped at this point, it would be easy enough for someone to say that the Eucharist could be something symoblic. But Jesus did not stop here. He went much further in his teaching, as we will soon see.
Martyrdom. It’s an interesting word, isn’t it? I think that perahaps in our day and age it has lost most of its punch. When someone whines about perceived wrongs, we say, “Oh, they’re such a martyr.” In fact, that was one of my mom’s favorite phrases! St. Stephen was the first martyr, the first Christian killed for his belief in Christ Jesus. Not ridiculed, not beaten, not just belittled in some way. But killed. He gave his life, literally. He even asked God to forgive those who were killing him.
I think that we may experience martyrdom in small ways many times during our lives. And I’m sure that, if properly done, God honors them all. But we really must keep things in perspective. Stephen, and the great martyrs who followed him, courageously refused to back down from sharing the message of Christ, even when staring death in the face. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of that degree of sacrifice…well, it makes my little martrydoms pale in comparison. In fact, I feel downright blessed! Do you?
Father, we thank you for the example of St. Stephen, going to his death for his faith. Give us that same kind of courage, even in the face of much smaller consequences. Amen.