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The Church honors the memory of St. Stephen on December 26, recalling how he was the first martyr after Jesus’ death on the cross.
St. Fulgentius of Ruspe offers us a beautiful meditation on the love the motivated St. Stephen and how it permeated everything he did.
Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. [Ed. note: The name Stephen comes from the Greek for “laurel wreath,” the crown given to winning athletes in the ancient Olympics.] His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him.
Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven.
In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.
This should be the mark of every Christian, always motivated by the love of Christ.
Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense,- and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.
My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.
As we ponder the many mysteries of Christmas, let us examine our lives and seek to live it by God’s love, willing to do anything that will spread that love into the world.