Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
(Acts 7:51-8:1a; John 6:30-35)
A few years ago Clint Eastwood made a movie in which the protagonist dies in Christ-like fashion. In “The Grand Turino” Eastwood plays a retired auto worker who undergoes a conversion. Originally openly hostile to minorities, the man changes his outlook when he experiences the integrity of a Hmong family who move into his neighborhood. In the movie’s last scene the hero willingly walks into a death trap in order to redeem the life of a young Hmong. And as he is riddled with bullets, he outstretches his arms like Christ on the cross.
In the first reading we see Stephen also dying like Jesus. As Jesus was unjustly executed so is Stephen. As Jesus was taken past the walls of Jerusalem for crucifixion, Stephen is stoned outside the city. Stephen’s last words are paraphrases of Jesus’. First, he petitions Jesus, as Jesus the Father, to “…receive my spirit.” Then, like Jesus, he asks forgiveness for his executioners.
Since death is an inevitability of life, we should prepare ourselves so that we too might die like Jesus. By rehearsing “into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit” before bed every night, we will have these words on our lips with our dying breath. By daily praying for those who have offended us, well, we are not likely to have any enemies when we die. But if one remains, we will easily remember to pray for him or her as we go to God.