The Hands of the Father
“Father, into thy hand I commend my spirit.”—St Luke xxiii. 46.
Neither St Matthew nor St Mark tells us of any words uttered by our Lord after the Eloi. They both, along with St Luke, tell us of a cry with a loud voice, and the giving up of the ghost; between which cry and the giving up, St Luke records the words, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” […]
Then the cry meant, It is finished; the cry meant, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. Every highest human act is just a giving back to God of that which he first gave to us. […] The vast operations of the spiritual as of the physical world, are simply a turning again to the source.
The last act of our Lord in thus commending his spirit at the close of his life, was only a summing up of what he had been doing all his life. He had been offering this sacrifice, the sacrifice of himself, all the years, and in thus sacrificing he had lived the divine life. […] For the way to worship God while the daylight lasts is to work; the service of God, the only “divine service,” is the helping of our fellows.
I do not seek to point out this commending of our spirits to the Father as a duty: that is to turn the highest privilege we possess into a burden grievous to be borne. But I want to shew that it is the simplest blessedest thing in the human world.
For the Human Being may say thus with himself: “Am I going to sleep—to lose consciousness—to be helpless for a time—thoughtless—dead?[…]—Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. I give myself back to thee. Take me, soothe me, refresh me, ‘make me over again.’ Am I going out into the business and turmoil of the day, where so many temptations may come to do less honourably, less faithfully, less kindly, less diligently than the Ideal Man would have me do?—Father, into thy hands. Am I going to do a good deed? Then, of all times,—Father, into thy hands; lest the enemy should have me now. Am I going to do a hard duty, from which I would gladly be turned aside,—to refuse a friend’s request, to urge a neighbour’s conscience?—Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. Am I in pain? Is illness coming upon me to shut out the glad visions of a healthy brain, and bring me such as are troubled and untrue?—Take my spirit, Lord, and see, as thou art wont, that it has no more to bear than it can bear. Am I going to die? […] Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. For it is thy business, not mine. Thou wilt know every shade of my suffering; thou wilt care for me with thy perfect fatherhood; for that makes my sonship, and inwraps and infolds it. […] I care not for the pain, so long as my spirit is strong, and into thy hands I commend that spirit. If thy love, which is better than life, receive it, then surely thy tenderness will make it great.”
Thus may the Human Being say with himself.
Think, brothers, think, sisters, we walk in the air of an eternal fatherhood. […] When we are least worthy, then, most tempted, hardest, unkindest, let us yet commend our spirits into his hands. […] How the earthly father would love a child who would creep into his room with angry, troubled face, and sit down at his feet, saying when asked what he wanted: “I feel so naughty, papa, and I want to get good”! Would he say to his child: “How dare you! Go away, and be good, and then come to me?” And shall we dare to think God would send us away if we came thus, and would not be pleased that we came, even if we were angry as Jonah? Would we not let all the tenderness of our nature flow forth upon such a child? And shall we dare to think that if we being evil know how to give good gifts to our children, God will not give us his own spirit when we come to ask him? […]
Nor shall we ever know that repose in the Father’s hands, that rest of the Holy Sepulchre, which the Lord knew when the agony of death was over, when the storm of the world died away behind his retiring spirit, and he entered the regions where there is only life, and therefore all that is not music is silence, (for all noise comes of the conflict of Life and Death)—we shall never be able, I say, to rest in the bosom of the Father, till the fatherhood is fully revealed to us in the love of the brothers. For he cannot be our father save as he is their father; and if we do not see him and feel him as their father, we cannot know him as ours. Never shall we know him aright until we rejoice and exult for our race that he is the Father. He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? To rest, I say, at last, even in those hands into which the Lord commended his spirit, we must have learned already to love our neighbour as ourselves.