The gates of heaven were opened for blessed Stephen, who was found to be first among the number of the Martyrs and therefore is crowned triumphant in heaven.
Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship, and so learn to love even our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors. Through our Lord…
“Behold, I see the heavens opened.”
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:8- 10; 7:54-59)
In those days: Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into 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 with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
The word of the Lord.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM Ps 31:3bc-4.6 and 8ab.16bc and 17 (R. 6a)
R/. Into your hand, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
A mighty stronghold to save me.
For you are my rock, my stronghold!
Lead me, guide me, for the sake of your name. R.
Into your hands I commend my spirit.
You will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God.
Let me be glad and rejoice in your mercy,
For you who have seen my affliction. R.
Deliver me from the hands of my enemies
and those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant.
Save me in your merciful love. R.
ALLELUIA Psalm 118:26a.27ab
Alleluia. Blessed is he who enters in the name of the Lord; the Lord is God, and he has given us light. Alleluia.
“It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father.”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 10:17-22)
At that time: Jesus said to his apostles, “Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
The best way to reciprocate the love of God for us is to do his will in all circumstances. This would not be an easy venture. Jesus already warned his disciples of that uneasiness but reminded them that it is the work of God; God will surely provide the tools for the work (cf Mt 10:17-22). The only thing God requires of us therefore is proper disposition. St Stephen had possessed this disposition. See how he was described upon his election as a deacon, “A man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). If you allow God to possess you, you will bear true witness to God and then it wont matter again what happens to you because alive or dead, you belong to God. Do not be afraid to stand for God for he does not fail.