Cardinal Francis George
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
Today is the 2nd day of Christmas and it’s no coincidence that it’s also the feast of the 1st Martyr of the Church. St. Stephen.
The speech he gives before his is stoned to death is rather significant and takes up most of the seventh chapter of the book of Acts. where he reviews the entire history of the Jewish people from Abraham to Jacob, to Joseph Joshua to Moses and notes a pattern:
It was this Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you, from among your own kinsfolk, a prophet like me.’ It was he who, in the assembly in the desert, was with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our ancestors, and he received living utterances to hand on to us
“Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will be our leaders. As for that Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him. So they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their handsThen God turned and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the desert, O house of Israel. No, you took up the tent of Moloch and the star of (your) god Rephan, the images that you made to worship. So I shall take you into exile beyond Babylon.’Acts 7:37-43
And ends his history lesson with the following
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”
This could be a description of the United States today. We have been exceedingly blessed by God and yet have run away from him to the point where Christian men who proclaim the Gospel, feed the hungry, get gifts for kids,raise money for the poor are now considered unfit to serve as judges unless they abandon their God. Our proclamation of faith angers them just like Stephen’s vision of the Lord that they killed him for
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, 4and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone himActs 7:54-58a
That’s why it’s so important that the feast of St. Stephen is after Christmas day, because it reminds us as we celebrate the birth of the newborn king the price that he paid for the salvation he brought us and the price we may be called to pay for our faith.
We haven’t reached the point where they start jailing us or killing us here in America for believing, but I regret to say I will likely live to see the day it begins.
May we have the courage of Stephen when it does. We’ll need it.