December 26, 2018, Wednesday, Feast of Saint Stephen

“Beware” is the word that stands out in today’s gospel, on the feast of St. Stephen. The word itself mirrors the peculiarity of the day, the feast of the Church’s first martyr right after the solemnity of our Savior’s birth—a celebration of life followed by a celebration of death—since the word for beware (prosechó) is very different from the words we have been investigating this month: pity, grace, and joy. As we begin the Christmas season, we are immediately called to “beware” (prosechó), a word that is essentially identified with Advent as an urgent call to “be aware” of the coming Christ. The Christmas season begins where Advent left off: with watchfulness. But what do we have to watch for now that the Word has become Incarnate? Christ warns in Luke 21:34-36 that you must be aware “lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.” In other words, now that we have finished being watchful for Christ’s first coming, now we have to be aware of Christ’s final coming, which is in our midst right now, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains: “Jesus Christ does not belong to the past, nor is he confined to a distant future whose coming we do not even have the courage to seek. He arrives with a great procession of saints… he is already on his way towards us, towards our present” (Christmas greetings, 21 December 2007). Beware. Be aware of Jesus Christ in your life.