INTO YOUR HANDS: A HOMILY ON THE FEAST OF ST. STEPHEN, MARTYR
One of the most difficult things for us to do is nothing. Even lazy people are not lazy because they are doing nothing. They are lazy because they are busy doing every other thing except the very thing they should be doing. However, we cannot do everything for ourselves and at a point we have to leave things in God’s hands. There is a saying that when we can no longer go further, God takes over.
I don’t know if you have ever been at this point before, but Stephen came to this point in our first reading and he was condemned to death, innocent as he is. In this situation, many people can become very worried. Sometimes we cannot do something about a situation, but we get very worried about it, as if by worrying about it we are doing something about it. Of course, the person who worries is doing something, but the worrying does not make the situation any better. Sometimes we curse those who are doing evil to us, forgetting that the curse itself is also evil.
St. Stephen simply prayed ‘Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit’. In other words, he leaves everything in the hands of God. This same prayer is repeated in our responsorial psalm ‘Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit’. Sometimes, it is enough to just leave everything in the hands of God.
Usually, when a day is coming to an end, we would discover that there is this one or two things that need to be done. One truth is that it is very difficult to have a day when you have finished all the tasks you can possibly accomplish for the day. I like the story about Pope John XXIII who, at the end of everyday, before he goes to bed would say to Jesus “Well, Lord, its your church. I am tired and going to bed.” By this prayer, he acknowledges that he is only human and can only do his little bid. At the end of the day, God is in charge. Of course there are days when you forget something really essential, and you cannot go to bed until you have done it, but that should not become a daily thing.
We have to all realise that the world can go on perfectly without us. Your family can go on perfectly without you. Your parish can go on perfectly without you Father, so go to bed and sleep. At every night prayer, the responsorial remains the same ‘Into your hands Lord, I commend my spirit’. This prayer could be a way of commending oneself to God before going to bed. It is also with the idea that every night prayer is a prayer for a happy death as sleep is a symbol of death. It is like saying ‘Lord, if I die tonight, receive my spirit’. There is power in surrendering things to God, especially things that are beyond our control.
Jesus Himself prays this same prayer on the cross. Stephen was just repeating the words of Jesus on the cross, and so do we at every night prayer. Jesus in the gospel tells his disciples not to worry about what to say when they face persecution, when they get arrested and are being tried by a court or a governor. He tells them that the spirit of God will provide the words when the time comes. If you face a situation where you don’t know what to say to defend yourself, commend everything to the Holy Spirit and when the time comes, you will know exactly what to say. Where your power can no longer carry you, just pray “God I commend everything to your hands”, and leave it there. That is why Timaya sang the song ‘File f’oluwa’ which means ‘Leave it for God’. Sometimes that is all you need to do.