daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, Feast of St. Stephen, December 26, 2011
Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-60, Ps. 30, Matt. 10:17-22

"And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 10:22).

Today, one day after Christmas, we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephen. In this way the Church reminds us that the cross is always central to Christianity, even during this beautiful Christmas season. We should never forget this. Jesus himself was killed by those he came to save. His word of life and salvation was rejected by many who did not want to hear it. They did not want to hear that he was the Son of God who came to save them. They preferred their own beliefs, and killed Jesus, hanging him on a cross. But it was precisely his death on the cross that saved them, when afterward they repented and came to believe in him for their salvation.

The Jews also killed St. Stephen because he preached to them that Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world. They did not want to hear anything about Jesus Christ as their Savior. Before being stoned to death Stephen said, "Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?" (Acts 7:52).

This is also our situation today. How many really want to hear that Jesus is their Savior, that he suffered for our sins, that his death was a sacrifice offered to his Father, that he took our place and suffered on the cross our punishment for our sins, and that if we believe in him, we can be freed from the burden and pain of guilt that cripples our spirit and depresses us, and can be justly forgiven for all our sins? How many, instead of preaching this, reduce this message to sociology or political science or economics or mere humanism and human remedies? There are many who do not want to speak of salvation in Jesus Christ.

But as Christians sent out by Jesus Christ to evangelize the world, the peoples, the nations, and make them disciples (Matt. 28:19), this message of salvation is precisely what we are sent out to preach and proclaim; and those who are thirsty for a word of life-and not merely human words and remedies-will receive our proclamation with happiness and gratitude. Those who do not want to hear it will ignore or persecute us. Such is the life of an apostle of any age. He becomes "a spectacle to the world ... the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things" (1 Cor. 4:9, 13).

Truly, the day will come when "you will be hated by all for my name's sake ... When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next" (Matt. 10:22-23). If they persecuted Jesus, they will persecute us too. "A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you" (John 15:20). "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18).

A missionary should avoid a false kind of enculturation that accommodates itself to the errors of a culture. His vocation is to preach salvation in Jesus Christ and show the way of sanctification, which is the narrow and hard way (Matt. 7:13-14) of renouncing the worldliness of the world (1 John 2:15) and living for God alone with all one's heart, without any division of heart as much as one can, according to one's state in life. But such a message will not be popular with many; and if we preach it, as we should, we will be persecuted. In this way we will bear our cross daily (Luke 9:23) and be true followers of Christ and true missionaries.

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