Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

April 20, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31 whose verses carry the echo of Jesus on Calvary.

The psalm, following the reading from Acts describing Stephen’s martyrdom, creates a sacred link between these two deaths. Ever since, that link has sanctified every Christian martyr’s death.

We might think that martyrdom is an atrocity only of the early Christian times. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Throughout the centuries and today, Christians die in witness to their faith.


Today, we might pray to St. Stephen for all throughout the world who suffer for their faith and their commitment to social justice.

Be my rock of refuge,
    a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
    for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.

Psalm 31:3-4

We might pray as well for a conversion of heart for those who persecute, shun and disrespect others because of their own fears and insecurities. The psalmist chose to curse them with the literary chutzpah common in the psalms:

Do not let me be put to shame,
for I have called to you, LORD.
Put the wicked to shame;
reduce them to silence in Sheol.

Strike dumb their lying lips,
which speak arrogantly against the righteous
in contempt and scorn.

Psalm 31: 18-19

But in our charity, let us pray for their enlightenment and repentance:

Love the LORD, all you who are faithful to him.
The LORD protects the loyal,
but repays the arrogant in full.

Psalm 31:24

Poetry: Be Soft not Stony-Hearted – from Rumi

… may Jesus’s breath serve as your cure,
make you, like Itself so blessed and pure.
Don’t claim in spring on stone some verdure grows;
be soft, like soil, to raise a lovely rose.
For years you’ve been a stony-hearted man,
Try being like the soil now if you can!


Music: Sancte Dei Pretiosi


Saint of God, elect and precious,
Protomartyr Stephen, bright
With thy love of amplest measure,
Shining round thee like a light;
Who to God commendest, dying,
Them that did thee all despite.
Glitters now the crown above thee,
Figured in thy honored name:
O that we, who truly love thee,
May have portion in the same;
In the dreadful day of judgment
Fearing neither sin nor shame.
Laud to God, and might, and honor,
Who with flowers of rosy dye
Crowned thy forehead, and hath placed thee
In the starry throne on high:
He direct us, He protect us,
From death’s sting eternally.

Sancte Dei, pretiose,
Protomartyr Stephane,
Qui virtute caritatis
Circumfulsus undique,
Dominum pro inimico
Exorasti populo:
2. Et coronae qua nitescis
Almus sacri nominis,
Nos, qui tibi famulamur,
Fac consortes fieri:
Et expertes dirae mortis
In die Judicii.
3. Gloria et honor Deo
Qui te flora roseo
Coronavit et locavit
In throno sidereo :
Salvet reos, solvens eos
A mortis aculeo. Amen.

Psalm 31: Soak in the Graces

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

December 26, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, we pray with Psalm 31.

The Stoning of St. Stephen – Giovanni Lucini

Even while the gentle lights of Christmas linger, the Church reminds us that life in Christ requires a complete self-donation. Like Stephen, we pray to embrace that cost with courage and faith:

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.

Psalm 31: 6-8

Liturgically, we will be in the Christmas and Epiphany Season until January 10th. We have plenty of time to soak up the heavenly lights and the angelic songs as we slowly step back into an often shadowy world.

And I think the Church puts Stephen’s martyrdom so starkly at this juncture to remind us to SOAK – to fill our tanks with Christmas grace so that we are ready to accompany Christ in his ministry.

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.

Psalm 31: 3-4
Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco – Caravaggio

While your crèche is still enshrined in your home, take a morning to kneel beside Mary. Ask to learn her secrets for living fully in Christ. 

  • Do the same one morning with Joseph. Learn from his silent strength.
  • Learn from the shepherds who received astounding revelation with simple, unquestioning faith.
  • Learn from the animals who stand pure and guileless in the presence of God.
  • Ask to be ready, like Stephen, to give everything for what you learn.

I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My destiny is in your hands;
rescue me from any darkness,
from all pulls me away from you.
Let your face shine on your me
embrace me completely in your mercy.

Psalm 31: 16-17

Poem: THE STABLE by Sr. M. Chrysostom, O.S.B.

The winds were scornful,
Passing by;
And gathering Angels 
Wondered why
A burdened Mother 
Did not mind 
That only animals 
Were kind.
For who in all the world 
Could guess 
That God would search out 
Loneliness.

Music: Martyr Dei ( Martyr of God)

Martyr Dei, qui (quæ) unicum
Patris sequendo Filium,
victis triumphas hostibus,
victor (victrix) fruens cælestibus.
Tui precatus munere
nostrum reatum dilue,
arcens mali contagium,
vitæ repellens tædium.
Soluta sunt iam vincula
tui sacrati corporis;
nos solve vinclis sæculi,
amore Filii Dei.
Honor Patri cum Filio
et Spiritu Paraclito,
qui te corona perpeti
cingunt in aula gloriæ.

Martyr of God, whose strength was steeled
To follow close God’s only Son,
Well didst thou brave thy battlefield,
And well thy heavenly bliss was won!
Now join thy prayers with ours, who pray
That God may pardon us and bless;
For prayer keeps evil’s plague away,
And draws from life its weariness.
Long, long ago, were loosed the chains
That held thy body once in thrall;
For us how many a bond remains!
O Love of God release us all.
All praise to God the Father be,
All praise to Thee, eternal Son;
All praise, O Holy Spirit, to Thee
While never ending ages run.

St. Stephen, Protomartyr

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

 Click here for readings

The Demidoff Altarpiece: Saint Stephen
Representation of St. Stephen from The Demidoff Altarpiece by Carlo Crivelli, an Italian Renaissance painter of the late fifteenth century. This many-panelled altarpiece or polyptic painted by Crivelli in 1476, sat on the high altar of the church of San Domenico in Ascoli Piceno, east central Italy. It is now in the National Gallery in London, England.

 

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr for the Christian faith. 

The commemoration and readings are a drastic turn from singing angels and worshiping shepherds.The Liturgy moves quickly from welcoming a cooing baby to weeping at the death of innocence. Why?

One thought might be to keep us practical and focused on what life in Christ truly means.

Stephen, like Jesus, “was filled with grace and power, … working great wonders and signs among the people.” He, as Jesus would, met vicious resistance to his message of love and reconciliation. He, as Jesus would, died a martyr’s death while forgiving his enemies.

The Church turns us to the stark truth for anyone who lets Christ truly be born in their hearts. WE will suffer as Jesus did – as Stephen did. The grace and power of Christ in our life will be met with resistance, or at least indifference.

We may not shed blood but, in Christ, we will die to self. When we act for justice for the poor and mercy for the suffering, we will be politically frustrated and persecuted. When we forgive rather than hate, we will be mocked. Powerful people, like the yet unconverted Saul in today’s second reading, may catalyze our suffering by their determined hard-heartedness.

Our Gospel confirms the painful truth:

“You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

Tomorrow, the liturgy picks up the poetic readings from John’s letters. These are delights to the soul. 

But for today, it is a hard look, with Stephen, at what Christmas ultimately invites us to.

Music: Gabriel’s Oboe from the movie “The Mission”, played by Henrik Chaim Goldschmidt,  principal oboist of The Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen, Denmark.