Sunday, April 26, 2009

Into Your Hands Lord

April 28, 2009

By Beth DeCristofaro

As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"; and when he said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. (Psalm 31:6)

So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven…."I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." (John 6: -35)


In you, Yahweh, I take refuge; let me never be disgraced,…Into your hands I commit my spirit; you will redeem me, Yahweh….I will exult and rejoice in your love! You, who have seen my wretchedness and known the miseries of my soul, have not handed me over to the enemy. My fate is in your hand; rescue me from the hands of my enemies and persecutors…You heard my petition when I called to you for help. (I will be strong, I will let my heart be bold and have hope in Yahweh.) (Psalm 31, from Psalms Anew)


This Psalm is one of my favorites. It is a lament with a sense of strong trust. You are my rock and my fortress has become an iconic image of God’s merciful and saving power. Its beautiful words have been recited in many sick rooms and at the side of the dying. Both Stephen and Jesus die with Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit on their lips.

But perhaps we can hear this psalm as a way of living also. "Imitate the Eucharist and you will become a saint." St. Therese of Lisieux said. If we can commend our own spirit to God just as Jesus, the living Eucharist does, is this not a prayer of life? If we commend ourselves into the hands of God, what do we receive but the Bread of Life?

Another way of looking at this is for me to assume that I am dying (which, being a mortal human is not out of line, anyway). Between now and my unknown time of death, can I live as if I have commended my spirit to God and am trusting in the rock-steady presence of the Spirit? Can I trust that the Bread of Life will give me what I need? Each moment will be God’s.


Make a mantra of St. Stephen’s prayer: “Lord receive my spirit.” Let the Lord, infusing you, guide each and everything you say and do today. Whether your prayer in praise, lament, sadness, confusion, hope, or seeking direction, trust that the Bread of Life will fill you with the nourishment you need.

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