Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Saint Stephen's final prayer: make it your own!

Today, after the joyous news of Our Savior's birth, we face the shocking martyrdom of one who believed in this same Savior.

As in other years, I've often wished the final prayer of Saint Stephen was included in today's First Reading (Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59).

Today we hear Stephen crying as he died: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"

Which is a great prayer, of course.

But what we don't, for some reason, hear is the saint's Christ-like petition, made just before he died:

"Lord, do not hold this sin against them!"

A prayer that surely led Jesus to convert Saint Paul.

Paul—then Saul—fiercely denied that Jesus was the Messiah. He participated in Stephen's assassination. Yet Stephen, at the point of death prayed for him, prayed for all of those who doubted, who denied Christ.

Make Stephen's prayer your own.

"Do not hold this sin against them" can be a prayer for your enemies, for those who have hurt you terribly, or for even the guy who cut you off at the intersection.

But even more, it can be—and I can't emphasize this enough—a prayer for doubters, deniers, for those who dislike Jesus' Church.

Pray daily for your enemies.

Pray even harder for the enemies of Christ.

It's a Christmas present that lasts all year long, after all!