Saint Stephen, The First Martyr (Feast)
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Think about all the gift giving that happened yesterday. We all understand that “it’s the thought that counts” more than the gift itself. It’s the token of affection embodied in the gift that has the most impact, along with the way you have put a little bit of yourself into the gift. Your hope, after all, is that the gift will help the recipient remember you fondly. You might say, in fact, that when we give a gift, it’s like saying, “Receive my spirit.”
This is one way to look at the final words of St. Stephen, the Church’s first martyr. As challenging as his last day on earth must have been, what Stephen wanted most was for God to accept the offering of his life. Stephen wanted to give Jesus the gift of his own dedicated heart, out of gratitude for all Christ had done for him.
Every day, courageous men and women around the world are offering their lives as a gift to the Lord—and it’s not just the martyrs. It can be everyday people like yourself as well. Think of all the ways you sacrifice for your loved ones. You put aside your preferences and defer to your spouse or your friends. You get up early to make sure things run smoothly, and sometimes you lose sleep praying for and worrying about the people in your life who are struggling. You bite your tongue, you change your plans, you forgive and forbear. And as you do each of these things, you can follow Stephen’s example and say to the Lord, “Receive my spirit.”
Of course, you’re not perfect. But if you are trying to show love through your words and actions, the people around you will notice, and it will have an effect on them. And if you need more grace, don’t be afraid to ask Jesus. He is interceding for you before the Father—just as St. Stephen saw him doing.
Here’s the best news: when you give your spirit to God as a gift, he receives it! He takes it, fills it with his grace, and gives it back to you transformed. God sees your sacrifices and your gifts, and each gift, each sacrifice, fills him with joy.
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit—today and every day.”
Psalm 31:3-4, 6, 8, 16-17
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