26 December  [St Stephen]
Mt 10:17-22

Beware, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

“The one who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster,” wrote Nietzsche.  He becomes one if he uses the same means that the monster uses.  Violence has its own logic and is willing to stay in place indefinitely.  When Stalin was asked how long he was going to go on killing people he replied, “As long as it’s necessary.”  That means forever, because a regime put in place by violence remains violent even after the killing stops.  Violence breeds more violence in an endless spiral if some new element is not brought in.  The new element is one that would never occur to a tyrant.  “Hate cannot drive out hate,” said Martin Luther King, “only love can drive out hate.”

That new element is what the Gospel is about.  Commenting on today’s passage St John Chrysostom (+407) wrote: “Jesus is preparing the disciples for a new kind of combat. They are to suffer wrong and willingly permit others to inflict punishment upon them. This is meant to teach them that the victory is in suffering evil for the sake of good…. He does not instruct them to fight and resist those who would persecute them.  All he promises them is that they will suffer with him the utmost ills.”  Jesus was born into a terrible world where violence was seen as normal.  He was, and still is, the Prince of Peace in the kingdom of violence, but he refused to live according to its logic, so he had to die.  After him, Stephen was the first Christian martyr, the first of many. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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