Slander and persecution for following Jesus Christ

The gates of Heaven have opened for Stephen, the first of the martyrs; for this reason he has received the crown of triumph.

Scarcely have we celebrated the Birth of the Lord and already the liturgy proposes to us the feast of the first who gave his life for the Child who has just been born. "Yesterday, Christ was wrapped in swaddling clothes for us; today, He covers Stephen with the garment of immortality. Yesterday, the narrowness of a manger held the infant Christ; today, the immensity of Heaven has received Stephen triumphant."

The Church wishes to recall that the Cross is always very close to Jesus and his own. In the struggle for full justice - holiness - the Christian encounters difficult situations and attacks from the enemies of God in the world. The Lord warns us: If the world hates you, know that it hated me first.... Remember the word that I have spoken to you, that a servant is not above his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. And from the very beginning of the Church this prophecy has been fulfilled. Also in our days we will suffer hardship and persecution, to one degree or another and in different forms, for truly following the Lord. "All times are times of martyrdom," St. Augustine tells us. Let it not be said that Christians do not suffer persecution; the Apostle's sentence cannot fail (...): All who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12). . Everyone, he says, no one excluded, no one excepted. If you want to test whether this saying is true, begin to live piously and you will see how right he was to say it."

At the very beginning of the Church, the first Christians in Jerusalem suffered persecution from the Jewish authorities. The Apostles were scourged for preaching Jesus Christ and suffered it with joy: they left the presence of the Sanhedrin rejoicing, because they had been found worthy to suffer outrage for the name of Jesus.

The Apostles would undoubtedly remember the words of the Lord: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and slander you in any way for my sake. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven: in the same way they persecuted the prophets who preceded you.

"It is not said that they did not suffer, but that suffering caused them joy. We can see it by the freedom they then used: immediately after the scourging they gave themselves to preaching with admirable ardor.

Shortly afterwards, the blood of Stephen, shed for Christ, will be the first, and it has not ceased to this day. In fact, when Paul arrived in Rome, the Christians were already known by the unmistakable sign of the Cross and of contradiction: "Of this sect," the Roman Jews told Paul, "the only thing we know is that everywhere it suffers contradiction.

The Lord, when he calls us or asks us to do something, knows well our limitations, and the difficulties we have to face.

Hablar con Dios