Celebrating Stephen, keeping things simple
Cause of Our Joy / Katie Faley
St. Stephen has always fascinated me. The image that immediately comes to mind when I think of St. Stephen is a man tied to a tree, bloodied from the rocks being hurled at him. I don’t even think I’ve ever really seen a picture of St. Stephen. It’s just my imagination that makes me see him in that way.
He was an early follower of the apostles and one of the first deacons. His mission is documented in the Acts of the Apostles, although what we have left of his life story isn’t much. But we know that he was the first martyr — dying for love of God. As a church, we celebrate his feast day on Dec. 26.
It’s a little cheeky to me that the church celebrates the birth of this Savior baby one day, and then immediately the next day we celebrate the first person to die for said baby. Life one day, death the next.
But, as Catholics, we know that death is part and parcel with our faith. And it never just ends at death, thanks to Jesus. It’s all a cycle, and from death we get new life again. Stephen must have known that since he was willing to die for Jesus and the promise of eternal life.
So, cheeky as it is, it makes sense that we would celebrate a famous death the day after history’s most famous birth.
STEPHEN WAS “ALL IN” FOR JESUS
What captured my attention about Stephen, however, is not so much his death. It’s that he was all in from the beginning. There was no question for him. He was navigating Christianity when Christianity was barely a thing.
In the Bible, he’s described simply as a man “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Stephen ignored the distractions of the world at the time. He made Jesus his one focus. Not the noise and the chaos. Just Jesus. He kept it simple and was filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the season of Advent. Some days have gone better than others. Some days I get so distracted with the stresses of life. Some days I forget to stop and pray until the very end of the day when I’m tired and ready to just fall asleep.
“HOLY SPIRIT, COME INTO MY HEART”
But what’s seemed to work the best for me to focus on the glory of Heaven is to just ask the Holy Spirit in. That’s it.
“Holy Spirit, come into my heart.”
It’s simple, but it seems to work. I guess actually inviting God in is better than not inviting Him in. Who’d have thought?
When I’m feeling distracted, I find it easiest and most effective to just keep things simple.
Those simple words help to redirect me away from the chaos and the distraction to focus again on God.
In just a few days, we’ll be celebrating the birth of Jesus. The world has made many distractions to take us away from focusing on the Savior. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the distractions. Christmas in our modern world is busy — usually with many good things — but sometimes even good things can be a distraction from the simplicity of the birth of the world’s most famous baby.
So, like Stephen, I’m going to keep it simple this Christmas. Holy Spirit, come into my heart.
KATIE FALEY is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. Write to her at email@example.com.