The readings for this post can be found by clicking here.
Every night as my community prays night prayer, or compline, part of the prayer is singing this phrase: “Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit.” It is a phrase that in one form or another, in the gospels, is expressed by Jesus. As he dies on the cross, he gives his human life over to the Father. It is a prayer many saints are believed to have said upon their death. And it is the prayer Stephen prays today as he is killed for his faith in Jesus.
As I pray this each night, I try to really mean it. What that means to me, is trying not only to remember I am always in the holy presence of God, but rather to commit myself totally to God at that moment, and by extension always. It is this idea that I am always in God’s presence that inspires this idea of spending five minutes with Jesus.
I believe that if you place yourself more and more in God’s presence then you will see more clearly the presence of God in more and more aspects of your life. While we talk about something like “seeing with the eyes of faith, we do not as often talk about how that is supposed to be done.
When I get stressed, I try to remember to take a few deep breaths and say the name of Jesus. Often this reminds me that I am indeed in his presence, and he can not ever lead me astray. I try to remember that this is not just that he would not ever lead me astray, but that he cannot lead me astray, because everything he desires for me is loving and good.
That does not mean that bad things do not happen in life, or that God’s goodness does not cause anxiety in me. When God leads me away from sin that can produce some anxiety in me, even though it is for my own good. When God calls me to grow, challenges me to move deeper in my faith, at first that may make me feel uncomfortable.
It certainly must have been the case for Stephen. I cannot imagine he could foresee that by accepting Jesus his life would be in danger. Rather, I think as he moved more deeply into his relationship with Jesus this became the inevitable result. How else can we explain that his face during his trial was like that as an angel? How else can we explain that he could remember to pray in total self-gift to Jesus as he was dying?
But it was unlikely that Stephen could imagine himself dying like this at the start. He would probably have been terrified, or called you crazy if before he met Jesus, and believed in him, it was suggested to him that this is how his life would unfold. That is why we cannot focus on where Jesus might lead us, but rather to focus on his constant presence.
Stephen could do the things he did and say the things he said because as his relationship with Jesus grew, he became more deeply aware of Jesus’ constant presence in his life. The greater union he had with Jesus on earth meant he came to believe completely in the eternal union Jesus called him to have in heaven. And so today, do not worry so much about what might happen or what will be. Rather, focus on the fact that Jesus loves you, is always with you, and will help you to face whatever comes.