Grant, Lord, we pray,
that we may imitate what we worship,
and so learn to love even our enemies,
for we celebrate the heavenly birthday
of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. *
Today’s Readings – Lectionary # 696
The gates of heaven opened for Stephen, the first of the martyrs;
in heaven, he wears the crown of victory. Entrance Antiphon
We remember the first martyr today to emphasize the invitation we have
as followers of Jesus to witness to his presence in our world, even when
it is unpopular, counter-cultural, or may even cost us our lives.
May we ask for the grace today to pray for our enemies and to
surrender even our lives in sharing this Good News with others.
Our Savior’s faithfulness is mirrored in the fidelity of his witnesses
who shed their blood for the Word of God.
Let us praise him in remembrance of them:
You redeemed us by your blood.
Your martyrs freely embraced death in bearing witness for the faith,
– give us the true freedom of the Spirit, O Lord.
Your martyrs professed their faith by shedding their blood,
– give us a faith, O Lord, that is constant and pure.
Your martyrs followed in your footstep by carrying the cross,
– help us to endure courageously the misfortunes of life.
Your martyrs washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb,
– Help us to avoid the weaknesses of the flesh and worldly allurements.
God of all great love,
you know how full of courage Stephen was
and how full of fears I am.
Help me to have the strength to be a witness for my faith,
standing up for those who are weaker,
speaking out for what I believe,
and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.
Also give me a share in your compassion and understanding
that I might pray for those who oppose me,
those who ridicule me,
and those who dismiss me.
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.