By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis began his address by saying that the celebration of St Stephen, who died, stoned, as he stood to defend his Christian faith, may appear “out of place” in the midst of the joys of Christmas. In reality, he said, “specifically in the perspective of faith, today’s celebration is in harmony with the true meaning of Christmas”.
The Pope went on to explain that in Stephen’s martyrdom, “violence is defeated by love, and death by life”. In the hour of supreme witness, he continued, Stephen “offers pardon to his persecutors”.
Pope Francis went on to say that this “young servant of the Gospel… knew how to speak about Jesus in word, and above all with his life”.
In the school of St Stephen, continued the Pope, “we too fix our gaze on Jesus, the faithful witness of the Father”, and through it we learn that the gaze of heaven is “made of love and the offering of oneself”.
Stephen’s witness is “a source of inspiration”, for us Christians, for whom “Heaven is no longer far away”, said the Pope. Our Christian communities, he continues, are called to become “always more missionary”, to strive to evangelise, “determined to reach the men and women living in the existential and geographic margins where there is a stronger thirst for hope and salvation”.
Pope Francis concluded his address by reminding the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square that this feast day invites us to “remember all the martyrs of yesterday and today to feel united in communion with them and to ask of them the grace to live and die with Jesus’ name in our hearts and on our lips”.
Finally, he prayed to Mary Mother, that we may “live this Christmas season, with our gaze fixed on Jesus”, so as to become more similar to him, each day.