Feast of Saint Stephen the Martyr
Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59
It’s not often I reflect on the responsorial psalm in the daily readings. The gospel stories seem much more compelling to me, and the stories invite me to be present to what Jesus is doing, or what the disciples are saying, or how the blind and lame are healed.
But today, the psalm response is very tender: Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Clearly the response can be applied to today’s feast, St. Stephen the Martyr. The feast always seems a bit of a downer following the day after Christmas. But that’s another reflection.
The response today elicits for me the very tender image of Jesus being held by his mother and his father. I imagine, like happened in our family when a newborn came home, that the baby gets passed around. The shepherds come forward with arms outstretched wanting to hold the child. Who can resist? Who does not find something profoundly moving about holding such a small person whose only role right now is to be there with you? That child brings out in us a profound sense of awe and responsibility.
Into your hands… Jesus is placed into our hands. He is entrusted to us. His life and his mission are given to us. We are called to protect and care for him and his mission. We cannot possess him or cuddle him forever. Our responsibility is to nurture that life of Jesus given to us, and then to pass him on so that others may hold him and know him and love him.
We have been given the most amazing gift in the birth of Jesus, and he has been placed in our hands. Let’s take a moment in quiet prayer to imagine the Baby Jesus being placed into our hands by Mary. What does she say to you? Are you nervous? Are you giddy? What do you say to the child you hold? To whom do you pass the child? Simply be there in that moment. There’s nothing more important you have to do now but hold that child.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.