Humbly submit your will to God (Thy Will be done) and consecrate yourself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through Mary.
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life—
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us–
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete. 1 JN 1:1-4
Today, I am combining the two special feast days the Church places right after Christmas. The Church’s first martyr, or protomartyr, St. Stephen (Steven) is a red martyr being stoned to death. Today, we celebrate St. John, the Evangelist and Beloved disciple, as a white martyr.
In the persecution of Domitian he was taken to Rome, and was placed in a cauldron of boiling oil, outside the Latin gate, without the boiling fluid doing him any injury. [Eusebius makes no mention of this. The legend of the boiling oil occurs in Tertullian and in Saint Jerome].
In the second general persecution, in the year 95, St. John was apprehended by the proconsul of Asia and sent to Rome, where he was miraculously preserved from death when thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil. On account of this trial, the title of martyr is given him by the fathers, who say that thus was fulfilled what Christ had foretold him, that he should drink of his cup. The idolaters, who pretended to account for such miracles by sorcery, blinded themselves to this evidence, and the tyrant Domitian banished St. John into the isle of Patmos…
Previous to this, according to Tertullian’s testimony (De praescript., xxxvi), John had been thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil before the Porta Latina at Rome without suffering injury.
Emperor Dometian had him brought to Rome, beaten, poisoned, and thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, but he stepped out unharmed and was banished to Patmos instead. This is commemorated by the feast of Saint John Before the Latin Gate.
I think it is wise to look at the characteristics of these two saints and try to implement them in our daily lives. First, St. Stephen was “filled with grace and power” and when he was debated against they, “could not withstand the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke”. At his death, he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and said, ““Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” It’s interesting to note the reaction to those who deny and refuse God, “But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.”
There is only one game in town and we have to choose sides. Jesus forces us to make a choice, “You either gather with me or you scatter.” This is seen quite clearly in St. Stephen’s martyrdom. The even more interesting part of this Scripture is that those who stoned Stephen laid their cloaks at the feet of Saul who was leading the persecution. In the wake of brutal violence, God is at work. God uses Saul to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. A saint who would have more letters in the New Testament than any other writer. A man who would be scourged several times, thrown in prison, beaten, stoned, then beheaded by the Romans. God is amazing! In the midst of all terrible things happening in our world, God is at work. We must allow Him to change us and lead others to Him.
St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist, is the only Apostle to be at the foot of the Cross showing his faithfulness to our Lord. John is one of the greatest witnesses to the revealed Truths of Christ, God brings John to the foot of the cross in a special way to receive a command from Jesus, “Behold, your mother.” Before these words Jesus speaks to His mother, “Woman, behold your son.” God’s plan continues to all generations through John for us to accept Mary as our mother, not just the mother of God. Mary’s suffering is complete in her Son’s crucifixion and now her love turns to us and the Church with John. John stays with Mary until she dies in Ephesus.
We are called to bring Mary into our homes, into our hearts, as she will bring us closer to Christ’s heart more than any other individual God created. It is part of her mission and purpose. We are all called to have a great devotion to Mary, she leads us to her Son, who in turn brings us to our heavenly home. John is involved in every special event of Christ’s life and then is called upon by God to have a special bond with His mother, so that “our joy may be complete.”
If we desire to be holy and enter heaven, these two saints show us unwavering faith in Jesus. Stephen is willing to DIE!!!! John stays by Christ’s side all the way to the Cross, then stays with Mary to the end. It required God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in which both saints opened themselves to totally and completely.
Today’s challenge: Dedicate yourself to Christ and be open to His grace. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love, send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth (through us). Whatever you give up, God will give back even more. He cannot be outdone in generosity. Stop having a hard heart and believe.
Be a servant, become a saint!