Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
(Acts 7:51-8:1a; John 3:31-36)
Cletus Post was a Benedictine priest and pastor in a small North Texan town near the Oklahoma border. He was a kind, gentle man and progressive in the best sense of the word. At about the age of retirement, a cancerous tumor invaded his brain to claim his life. As he was dying, he was asked if he was afraid. No, he said, he had counseled so many people to trust in God that he had to follow his own advice.
Fr. Cletus showed half of what it means to die a Christian death. By exhibiting trust on his deathbed he, like Stephen in the reading from Acts, was asking the Lord to receive his spirit. Of course, Stephen is only imitating Jesus who, in Luke’s gospel, prays from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The other half of a truly Christian death is to pray for one’s enemies. As Jesus asks his Father to forgive his crucifiers, Stephen asks Jesus to pardon those hurling stones at him.
Many people talk about the “quality of life” of those in their final days. They usually measure this characteristic in terms of communicating with loved ones, of living without excruciating pain, and of enjoying simple pleasures like ice cream. We might pray to maintain these standards as death closes in on us. But let our prayer include as well that God accept our spirit and that He forgive all who have offended us. These latter intentions, really more than the others, raise our quality of life to the highest level.