Reflection for Wednesday, December 26, 2001: Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr.

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O'Reilly, Daniel Patrick
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martyr|Well, it's the day after Christmas. The tree is dry, the presents are gone, the house is a mess, the wallet is empty, the waist line cannot withstand another cookie and the scriptures are depressing. In Acts, Stephen is martyred for his faith, the psalmist cries out "Into your hands I commend my spirit" and in Matthew, Jesus tells us that if we remain faithful to him we will be hauled into court and flogged. Our own family members may turn against us, hate us or even murder us. Now if that's not a dark and depressing picture then I don't know what is. However, as always, God gives us a ray of hope. Stephen remained faithful. He saw the glory of God and Christ at God's right hand. Stephen possibly planted a seed in Saul's heart. The psalmist proclaims "My trust is in the Lord." And Jesus tells us that we don't need to worry about what to say, the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. And whoever holds out till the end will escape death. A bleak picture, yet with rays of hope.|Do you know who Bob Ross is? He is a "painting made easy" instructor on public television. When my kids are channel surfing they always stop on Bob Ross. This was striking to me as Bob Ross is not a cartoon or action hero. He is a soft-spoken artist. Boring! I watched to see what the interest was. Bob Ross takes a canvas and starts slopping paint on it. My initial reaction was "Wow, that was a mistake, throw that one away and start over." But he doesn't. He works the paint, adding colors here and there, mixing, stroking, brushing and cutting lines. Periodically he adds too much of a certain color, but simply works with what has happened. Forms begin to take shape. A picture begins to come into view. And finally the finished product is revealed as a breath-taking landscape.|Our lives are like Bob Ross' canvas. Sometimes they seem like a directionless, shapeless, dark mess. But God works on us. We receive nudges from the Holy Spirit, He speaks to us through the scriptures and events and people are placed in our paths. Recently God placed a person in my path: The manager of a Taco Bell. I don't even know her name. At the end of tallying up my order I realized that I was short 60 cents. How embarrassing! I asked what I could take off the order. She looked at my sons and said that I could just owe her. Now every time I drive by the Taco Bell I smile at the thought of the kindness of a stranger and the lesson given to my sons. 60 cents. Just a little thing. One stroke of the paint brush. Yet what a difference. Christ doesn't say our life is going to be a masterpiece from start to finish. It's going to be hard. There will be messes, there will be mistakes. However, Christ promises that if we keep the faith, the reward will be great.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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