At the Angelus, Pope Francis explains the "very strong" link between the feast of the first martyr and Christmas. The message of Jesus "challenges worldly religious power and provokes consciences". Stephen’s words of forgiveness to his persecutors, "humanly unthinkable expressions", "possible only because the Son of God came to earth and died and rose for us".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Jesus' message is unsettling, and unsettles us, because it challenges the worldly religious power and provokes consciences" said Pope Francis commenting on the significance of today's feast, St. Stephen, first Christian martyr, the day after Christmas. The Pope spoke of how there is "a very strong link" between the two events.
"Saint Stephen created a crisis for the leaders of his people because “filled with faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6,5), he believed firmly and professed the new presence of God among men; he knew that the true temple of God was now Jesus, the eternal Word come to dwell among us, made like unto us in all things but sin. But Stephen was accused of preaching the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. The accusation they make against him is of having said that “Jesus, this Nazorean, will destroy this place and subvert the customs that Moses handed down to us” (Acts 6:14) ".
"In effect, the message of Jesus is unsettling, and unsettles us, because it challenges the worldly religious power and provokes consciences. After His coming, it is necessary for us to convert, to change our mentality, to reject thinking like before. Stephen remained anchored to the message of Jesus even to death. His final prayers — “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7,59-69) — are the faithful echo of those pronounced by Jesus on the Cross: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Lk 23,46), and “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (v.34). Those words of Stephen were possible only because the Son of God had come upon the earth, and died, and rose for us; before these events, they were humanly unthinkable expressions".
"Stephen prayed Jesus to receive his spirit. The risen Christ, in fact, is the Lord, and is the sole mediator between God and men, not only in the hour of our death, but also in every moment of life: without Him we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15,5). So we too, before the Baby Jesus in the manger, can say to Him, “Lord Jesus, we entrust our spirit to You; receive it,” so that our existence should truly be a good life according to the Gospel.
Jesus is our mediator, and He reconciles us not only with the Father, but also with one another. He is the fount of love, Who opens us to communion with our brothers, removing every conflict and resentment. We know resentment is bad. It hurts and it hurts us. And Jesus transforms these resentments".
"To Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer and Queen of Martyrs, let us lift up our prayer with confidence, that she might help us to welcome Jesus as Lord of our life, and to become His courageous witnesses, ready to pay in person the price of fidelity to the Gospel".
After the Marian prayer, Francis renewed the Christmas greetings to those present: "These are for you and your family, days when you can enjoy the beauty of being together feeling that Jesus is among us".