In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
Fill us with your Spirit Lord, that we may follow St Stephen, first among martyrs, in learning to serve, and to forgive those who persecute us.
Read from the Acts of the Apostles, 6:8-10,7:54-59:
‘I can see heaven thrown open and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God, .….then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him’.
It may be that we are never called to witness to our faith in such dangerous circumstances as Stephen did, but there will be many times when we will need courage to speak out, to serve the poor, to share the word of the Lord, and to forgive those who seek to harm us.
Pope Francis tells us:
‘As always, God baffles us. He is unpredictable, constantly doing what we least expect. The nativity scene shows God as he came into our world, but it also makes us reflect on how our life is part of God’s own life. It invites us to become his disciples if we want to attain ultimate meaning in life.’
We pray for those Christians through the world who suffer for their faith, and for the missionaries who support them. We pray for the Church in countries where it faces persecution and intolerance.
O God, we thank you for St Stephen; may his example of service and witness inspire us to serve those in need, to always be true disciples, and to be messengers of your Gospel.
Tie a ribbon to your Christmas Tree, as a sign of solidarity for all those Christians, and people of other faiths, through the world who are persecuted for their beliefs.