Stephen's terrible death seems to spoil the whole atmosphere of Christmas. How can we believe in light when darkness wins this way?
Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.
Stephen’s terrible death seems to spoil the whole atmosphere of Christmas. How can we believe in light when darkness wins this way? How can Stephen’s martyrdom coexist with the good news of the Gospel, of a God who becomes man and comes to dwell among us?
Today’s Gospel passage helps us shed some light precisely on this scandalous question:
“Beware of men, 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.”
Jesus does not keep his disciples in the dark. He seems to want to tell them “do not think that everything will always go well; on the contrary, just when you’ve made up your mind to live in a certain way, you’ll experience that everything goes against you. But don’t lose confidence, because I’ll help you through any storm.”
As long as we continue to think of Jesus as a good luck charm that keeps life’s misfortunes away, then we still won’t understand anything about Christianity. Jesus isn’t a way not to have problems, but a way not to succumb to them.
Evil’s goal is to use problems to discourage us, to make us lose hope and confidence, and above all to undermine the conviction that God is our Father. Instead, God uses adversity to help us to use our freedom to the fullest, especially when all seems lost. In fact, only those who trust like Stephen can afford even to embrace death, because people like that never really die.
Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.