Pope: Saint Stephen and the witnesses who 'bring God's dawn' to 'the world's nights'

During the Angelus, Pope Francis prayed “for those suffering persecution because of the name of Jesus.” The martyrs (i.e. the witnesses) “break the cycle of hatred with meekness and love.” “God guides history through the humble courage of those who pray, love and forgive.” Every day, “We too can change evil into good”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Saint Stephen, the first martyr, and all the witnesses who came after throughout history brought “God’s dawn” to “the world’s nights,” said Pope Francis at the beginning of the Angelus prayer on the day after Christmas, the day in which the Church commemorates the martyrdom of the deacon of Jerusalem.

Stephen, the pontiff explained, “is the first martyr, or witness, the first of a host of brothers and sisters  who continue to bring the light into the darkness – people who respond to evil with good, who do not succumb to violence and lies, but break the cycle of hatred with meekness and love.”

A witness, Francis explained, is the one who “imitating Jesus”, serving “to the end”, “like Jesus,” has been “captured, condemned and killed outside of the city, and like Jesus [. . .] prayed and forgave. While he was being stoned, he said: ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’ (7:60).”

Francis asked: “A]re these witnesses to goodness really necessary when the world is rampant with wickedness? What good does it do to pray and forgive? Just to give a good example?”

A “young man named Saul” (v. 58) was among those who approved  Stephen’s stoning. “Paul, the greatest missionary in history [. . .] was born by God’s grace, but through Stephen’s forgiveness. That was the seed of his conversion. This is the proof that loving actions change history: even the ones that are small, hidden, every day. For God guides history through the humble courage of those who pray, love and forgive. The many hidden saints, those next door.”

“The Lord wants us to make our lives masterpieces through the ordinary, everyday things we do. We are called to bear witness to Jesus right where we live, in our families, at work, everywhere, even just by giving the light of a smile and fleeing the shadow of chattering and gossiping. And then, when we see something that is wrong, instead of criticising, badmouthing and complaining, let us pray for the one who made a mistake and for the difficult situation.

“When an argument starts at home, instead of trying to win it, let us try to defuse it; and start over again each time, forgiving the one who has offended us. Saint Stephen, while he was on the receiving end of the stones of hatred, reciprocated with words of forgiveness. He thus changed history. We too can change evil into good each time just as a beautiful proverb proposes which says: ‘Be like the palm tree: they throw stones at it and it drops down dates’.”

“Today, let us pray for those suffering persecution because of the name of Jesus. There are many, unfortunately. Let us entrust these brothers and sisters to the Virgin Mary, that they might respond with meekness to oppression and that, as true witnesses to Jesus, they might conquer evil with good.”

After the Marian prayer, Francis – who recited the Angelus from the library of the apostolic palace, without looking out over St Peter’s Square – reiterated the importance of following the Angelus online, to help the authorities and the population “escape the pandemic” without creating gatherings in the streets.

The Holy Father then thanked people for the greetings and prayers he received during these days of celebration and reciprocated. He urged people to “contemplate Jesus in the crèche to serve him in the people around us.”


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