Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the faith. The second reading of the Office of Readings for today beautifully reflects on the significance of his death:
Yesterday, we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of His soldier. Yesterday our King, clothed in His robe of flesh, left His place in the Virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today His soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triuphantly to heaven. And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the King, it later shone forth in His soldier. My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.
This reading and the meditation on the faithful life and martyrdom of St. Stephen serves as such a powerful reminder to me to endeavor to ascend the ladder of holiness with one hand reaching up toward God and with another hand reaching down to pull up my brother.
It is yet another reminder of the importance of personal holiness, not just for my own salvation but for the salvation of all those around me.
“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23-24).