Immersed in Christ: April 28, 2020
Tuesday, Third Week of Easter
The Responsorial (Psalm 31) is the profession of faith and trust Jesus made before he died; except he called God “Father” instead of “Lord”: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” The meaning of the whole psalm is summed up in the next-to-last verse: “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.”
In Acts 7:51 to 8:1 Stephen died with the same words on his lips except he addressed them to Jesus: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” These are the words of ultimate faith, hope and love. To say them with our last breath is to die a Christian death. To say them with every breath we take is to live a Christian life. This is the meaning of the traditional greeting and prayer at Mass: “The Lord be with you,” with its echo: “And with your spirit.” What it says is, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. He is here.”
The “people, elders and scribes” 1 killed Stephen because he said, “you always oppose the Holy Spirit.” Their whole religion focused on keeping the law, but Stephen said “you did not observe it” because they did not let the Holy Spirit show them what it meant. Law observance without intimate knowledge of the mind and heart of God is deadly. These are the ones who persecute the prophets in every age.
This is a reason why at Mass, after hearing God’s words in the readings, we symbolically place ourselves on the altar in the Presentation of Gifts to be transformed. As the bread that represents us is changed into the Bread of life, God promises we will be changed:
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you…. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.. Then [you] shall be my people, and I will be [your] God. 2
The words the presider speaks in the name of all during the Presentation of Gifts echo the words of Jesus in John 6: 30-35: “I am the Bread of Life.”
Blessed are you, Lord… through your goodness we have this bread to offer… It will become for us the Bread of Life.
We don’t just present ourselves in commitment to give human obedience to the words of Jesus as understood by our human minds. St. Paul tells us, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice” to be
transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect.
We are committing ourselves to live out our baptismal consecration as prophets. We seek enlightenment through God’s word as disciples, but we know we will not truly understand how to live as witnesses to Jesus Christ until we have been “clothed with power from on high” by the “gift of the Spirit.” We receive it through surrender: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” 3
Initiative: Obey laws, not according to their letter but by the Spirit.
1 Modern equivalents are “laity, clergy and Canon Lawyers.” The correct word for ordained priests is “presbyters” or “elders.” The scribes were the teachers or “doctors” of the law. The Gospels link the “scribes and Pharisees” together as allies twenty times. 2 Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26. 3 Romans 12:1-2; Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:8, 2:38, 10:45; 1Corinthians 2:6-16.