Monday, December 27, 2010

The Fullness of Faith

Today we celebrate the first martyr of the Church, Saint Stephen the Deacon.  He did no more than to proclaim the truth of the Incarnation and was stoned to death! As he was near death, with stones destroying his body, he had the faith to say, "Lord, Lay not this sin to their charge."  In his last breath he was asking forgiveness for there acts in defiance of the truth of the Incarnation of God and all he accomplished for the salvation of mankind. Held true to His faith with love for both God and others.

This is a reminder about the nature of the faith we are asked to have. It's a faith we firmly hold in its total truth but with love.  In many of the interviews done during the Christmas season, where people were asked if they thought the Christian nature of the season was being overtaken by the commercialism, many respond with statements like, "Yes, I think this season has been overtaken but, we all have our beliefs and all have to be accommodated."  Do you see the weakness in such a statement. It you believe in the significance of the Incarnation such a statement was not one of love. It distorts the truth of the reality of the Incarnation. The Truth is made relative and insignificant to the detriment of the salvation of others.  If Saint Stephen had held such a view he would never have spoken the truth of the Incarnation that led to his stoning.  If we have faith we need to hold it firmly.  Otherwise, it is not a faith that leads us or others to salvation.  It is luke warm and useless. Let's affirm our belief in the Incarnation and all it implies.  Let's affirm our faith and proclaim it like Stephen had the courage to do.  Let's also forgive those who have desecrated Christmas with relativity and commercialism.  But let's not soften our faith to fit with the times.

Here is the end of the speech given by St. Stephen that led to his death by stoning.

The Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 
          Heaven is My throne,
          And earth is My footstool.
          What house will you build for Me? 
              says the LORD,
          Or what is the place of My rest?

            Has My hand not made all these things? 
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, sodo you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 
Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast himout of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:48-60)

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