Monday, December 26, 2011

Faith of a Martyr

Spending one more day in Babylon with the family. This afternoon I am baking a lasagna for my folks; this is a Christmas gift to them. Everybody got food this year! How Capuchin of me. Tomorrow I travel to Boston by bus.

My brother and I worshipped at the 9 o'clock Mass at Our Lady of Grace Parish this morning. The presider, who was unfamiliar with us, greeted us afterward and asked us if we were seminarians. The priest noticed my brown hooded sweatshirt with the logo of the Capuchins embroidered on it. Happily I told him about my vocation and of my longtime involvement in the parish. He blessed me and my brother, and he invited me to join in the church's 50th anniversary celebrations, coming up next year.

During Mass we heard the story of Stephen, honored by the Church as the first martyr -- the first person to die for his witness to the power and wisdom of God in Jesus Christ. This power and wisdom was alive in Stephen, who by faith "was working great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8).

It may seem funny to commemorate the first person to die for Christ only one day after the high solemnity of the Nativity. However, for Catholics who seek to live into the mystery of faith, the journey from the manger to the cross is neither long nor wide in time and space. From God's-eye perspective, each is contained within the other. The wood of the manger is the wood of the cross. It is wholly appropriate that we hear this good news today. The instinct of adoration, which we gratify at Christmas, carries us toward the communion of Easter. What we behold, we become.

The story of Stephen reminds me that our saving faith in Jesus is manifested when we show by our words and works the faith of Jesus. To be born into a life like Christ's is to accept dying as Jesus did. To bend the knee at the name of Jesus, one must be bent like Jesus. What we revere, we must serve. To serve as the savior Jesus served is to encounter, with compassion, the suffering of others, and to risk it in oneself. It is the adventure of faith -- the faith of a martyr. It is the faith every person consecrated to religious life assumes.

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