the three "last words" of stephen
"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." —Acts 7:59
On Good Friday, we often hear about the seven "last words" of Jesus, uttered as He hung dying in agony upon the cross. Today, we hear the three "last words" of St. Stephen, uttered as he was being stoned to death for his faith in the crucified and risen Jesus. In perfect imitation of Christ, St. Stephen said:
- "Look!...I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God's right hand" (Acts 7:56). With St. Stephen, "let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus" (Heb 12:2), so we will able to rejoice in the presence of persecution.
- "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59). Stephen prayed this "as [he] was being stoned" (Acts 7:59). Just before He died, Jesus had prayed, "Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit" (Lk 23:46). Disciples imitate Jesus in His character and in His ministry. Such a life trains us to respond as Jesus did in every moment of our life.
- "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:60). This was the last word Stephen spoke before he died. Jesus likewise prayed from the cross: "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23:34). We speak out of the abundance of our heart (Lk 6:45). If we forgive always, we can speak forgiveness even when persecuted.
A young Jewish man named Saul of Tarsus was glad to witness St. Stephen's death (Acts 7:58; 8:1). Although Saul wanted Stephen killed, he nonetheless heard the three last words of St. Stephen, and eventually converted to become a great apostle. Be a Stephen. Imitate Jesus daily in word and deed.
Prayer: Jesus, may my words bring many to Your kingdom.
Promise: "The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you." —Mt 10:20
Praise: St. Stephen was "a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5).
Reference: (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Rescript: †Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 26, 2015
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