Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr
The reading from Acts begins with the fruits that everyone wants from discipleship, but then ends with what most everyone tries to avoid. Acts tells us that St. Stephen, “filled with grace and power, was working great signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 6:8). This is something we would like. We want to be filled with grace (or at least feel happy) and power (or at least feel confident). But then the people “threw him out of the city, and began to stone him” (Acts 7:58). No one wants to be shunned, and certainly no one wants to be killed brutally.
Yet this is discipleship. It embraces not only happy feelings, but sad ones. It involves not only life, but death. Christianity is not about a saccharine existence. The day after we see the joyous birth of our Savior, we see the horrifying death of His servant. In placing the feast of St. Stephen on the day after Christmas, the Church declares that Christianity is not just joy and sunshine, but blood and darkness. We can experience darkness and still be real Christians, we can experience pain and still be part of Christmas. The life of discipleship is all-encompassing, and so is Christmas.