Friday, April 10, 2009
Good Friday "Into Your hands I commend my spirit."
“Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.” Lk.23:46
Many years ago when I was in the convent, each night we met to say Compline together. Compline is the night prayer said each night by those who are in religious orders in liturgical denominations. It is a series of prayers based upon the psalms and said just before everyone turns in for the night and silence descends upon the house until morning. It was often said with minimal light and with rather hushed voices. Every night we repeated “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” Not only are these words the last words of our Savior on the Cross, they were also the words of Psalm 31, written some 500 years before Jesus during the time of Jeremiah.
These words are words of surrender, and protection. From the Cross they could be construed as giving up—the act of one flinging himself wildly into the unknown. But for anyone who has prayed these words constantly in their lives, it is quite the opposite.
To pray “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit” regularly is one way to find that there is nothing which can keep us from the loving God who stands ready to accept our surrender. Now, surrender can be seen as a giving up. But in this case the kind of faithful surrender to God is last step in faith. It is the recognition that God is our home and as Jesus utters the words of this psalm he is embracing the fullness of his Godliness—his reunion with the Father.
To pray “Into your hands, I commend my spirit” is the comfort that the faithful know when we have done all we can, that God is there to guide us, to accept us, to redeem us and our all our efforts.
Jesus also knew the rest of that psalm. The parts that said:
“How abundant is the good
that You have in store for those who fear You,
That You do in the full view of humanity
for those who take refuge in You.”….
Blessed is the Lord,
For He has been wondrously faithful to me,
A veritable bastion.
Alarmed, I had thought,
I am thrust out of Your sight;
Yet You listened to my pleas for mercy
when I cried out to you.
So love the Lord, all you faithful;
The Lord guards the loyal, and more than requites him who acts arrogantly.
Be strong and of good courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.
Jesus knew that the Father had all things ready for him. He surrendered to know that togetherness that welcoming that fulfilled him.
Any good Jew understood what Jesus was saying. They knew Jesus was fulfilling his call from God. He had drunk deeply of the cup that was given him so that he would provide for us a witness that death has no power, pain has no power, evil has no power over the goodness and holiness of God.
To be reunited with all that is good and sacred is what God wants for us all. No matter what evil we face, no matter what seems to overcome us, for those of us who love Christ and serve him, we know from this scene that we are saved by the love he gave us upon the cross.
This kind of love—the kind of love that unites us one to the other at the deepest level does not protect us from bad things. We have but to look at the scene of Golgotha. This love does not mean that we can avoid the difficult things about us. It does not mean that we can avoid looking at the evil in the world. It does not mean that we can ignore the evil. Because of the love Christ surrendered to us on the Cross we are called to alleviate evil when we see it. Because Christ emptied himself and surrendered himself to the Father, we too can depend upon God to accept us when we have no answer to the things that seem to overwhelm us. This reunion is ours too. This embrace by God is what Jesus came to earth to teach us. We can depend upon it. We can have faith in it. We know the ending of the story just as those who stood at the Cross knew the end of the psalm. We can live in truth and light facing things that would beat us down. We too can surrender; can commend our spirits to God. And for life to have meaning for us as Christians, we must surrender ourselves to God. Reunion with God is not just our hope—it is the promise that Christ made with his life. AMEN