The WORD in Other Words by Fr Filmar Fiel SVD (Philippines) for December 26, Feast of St Stephen
In November 2017, the Catholic Bishops‘ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) designated Red Wednesday to raise consciousness about the persecution of many Christians around the world. Cathedrals, minor basilicas, shrines, parishes, and even other Catholic institutions illuminate their facade with red to express their solidarity.
In today‘s gospel Jesus said that his disciples would be handed over to governors and kings and be hated by all, but “whoever endures to the end will be saved.” The Tagalog translation seems more hauntingly beautiful to listen to: “Sa inyong pagtitiis ay maipagwawagi ninyo ang inyong mga katuluwa.
Today, we are reminded of perseverance. In the early years of Christianity, Christian witnessing often meant martyrdom. Today‘s saint, St. Stephen, is a clear example. He was a man “filled with faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5); he never ran away from his persecutors but bravely faced death by stoning to prove his faith in the Risen Christ.
The Church has persevered through time, not because it was managed by men and women who were tough and wise, but because of the grace of God. By enduring, the Church honors God and learns lessons along the way.
Today, we are also reminded of the opportunity to give witness. For the believer, difficulties can be turned into positive situations, lack of resources can be an occasion for creativity in expressing one‘s faith.
In closing, the gospel assures that the Spirit will be with us. When life is difficult, it is a test to strengthen and purity our faith. Let us pray for the courage to be creative in our Christian life, so that we may persevere to the very end.