Seventh Sunday of Easter
Jesus Prays for His Disciples (B, C)

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The Prayer in the Garden - by TINTORETTO - from Scuola di San Rocco, Venice

 

John 17:11-19 (B, C)

Father, may they be one in us! Jesus looked up to Heaven and prayed:

"O Father most holy, protect them with Your name which You have given Me, [that they may be one, even as we are one.] As long as I was with them, I guarded them with Your name which You gave Me. I kept careful watch, and not one of them was lost, none but him who was destined to be lost -- in fulfillment of Scripture. Now, however, I come to You; I say all this while I am still in the world that they may share My joy completely. I gave them Your word, and the world has hated them for it; they do not belong to the world, [any more than I belong to the world.] I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the Evil One. They are not of the world, any more than I am of the world. Consecrate them by means of Truth -- 'Your word is Truth. As You have sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world; I consecrate Myself for their sakes now, that they may be consecrated in Truth".

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter
Jesus Prays for His Disciples (B, C)

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)We recognize that the Liturgical Year follows the chronological development of the Church. We find ourselves now in a particular place between the Feast of the Ascension and the Feast of Pentecost. In the Feast of the Ascension, we find that Jesus - Who came into the world to reveal Who the Father truly is - was unsuccessful in convincing the inner circle of His twelve disciples all He desired them to know. I use the word "unsuccessful" because at Jesus' death there was great Confusion, Fear, and Doubt. It wasn't until after His death - when Jesus returned, resurrected, and spent forty (40) days with the disciples - that the Church began to be formed as a strong community of believers.

They becameHolySpirit_small.gif (21176 bytes) convinced that Jesus was truly the Messiah. They began to understand His message. That work of Jesus was a foretaste of the work of the Spirit. The Spirit, poured down on the Church at Pentecost, helps us to understand all that Jesus taught. It's the Spirit that enables us to drink in what we need to know. And it's the Spirit that enables us to be consecrated, set apart for this work of sharing God's Life with His people.

The Gospel today speaks of Jesus looking up to Heaven and praying for the Church. Jesus' language is such that He asks God for His followers to be "in the world" but not "of the world". The strength of a community that is in the world, but not of the world, is based on principles that are different from the world's principles. We have to understand what Jesus means when He says "of the world".

He's not talking about an existence that is outside the confines of the Sacred Space. He's talking about an attitude the world embraced, a disposition that ended up rejecting Him. This attitude could be simply described like this, "I'm on my own. I'm not connected to anything. I'm an insulated, isolated individual who needs to get as much as I can get because if I don't get it someone else is going to take it away from me".

People caught up in their own rights and needs, instead of feeling they are part of something bigger, exemplify this attitude. Our challenge as Church is to be in this world but deeply committed to transforming it. There is a temptation in every church community to be gathered in an inward circle, finding strength around each other, and a common form of worship so that everyone feels very comfortable.

We even find ourselves in churches where the people around us come from the same socio-economic backgrounds, reinforcing our mindsets. And yet there's a danger in being a Church based only on common likes and dislikes. The True Church, in its full expression, is not found solely in being turned inward. True Church is found in a community fed by something everyone understands. A Mutual Source moves the community. That Source is the Power of Spirit flowing into all of us. Our Church circle also needs to be directed outward. We need to be interested in the world, caring about it, and desiring to draw others into the circle.

We can't speak of religion without discussing its impact on society. The purpose of religion is for Social Change as well as Individual Change. The challenge is to understand what Jesus means by saying we will be "consecrated in the truth". The Gospel passage says "Your word is truth". What He means is that, as Church, Jesus invites us to be touched by this Truth. What is that Truth? The Truth is that God desires to enter into our lives. He longs to give us a Strength and a Power that we don't have of ourselves so that we might be able to be sources of Goodness and Life for other people.

The Truth that Jesus came to share is very simple in some ways. It's Mysterious in its unfolding, but fundamentally, it's about human beings gathered around a Source. This Source is indispensable in terms of living out our destinies. An individual called into the Life of Christ has a certain Destiny. The challenge is to understand that Destiny so we can fully become Church.

Pentecost marks the beginning of the Church. It's the beginning of the whole process of God's Spirit being poured into people. We can take this moment in the Liturgical Year to reflect on what it means to be a member of a Church. What does it mean to be called into this place of dedication? What does it mean to be set apart for this Mysterious work God has called us to?

As we prepare to celebrate Pentecost next Sunday, let us reflect upon the nature of Church. eucharist_sm_sm.jpg (8639 bytes)The word "Church" comes from a Greek word that means "to be called out". We desire to be called out of Negative Things, out of Slavery into Freedom, from a place of darkness into the Light. We want to move from Self-Centered lives toward something that has more meaning and purpose. That work of the Church is based on the Power of the Spirit. It demands that we gather together in a circle that truly recognizes the Spirit as the source. As a Catholic Community, we gather around two things: the Story and the Presence. The Story in Scripture is always reflected upon and broken open. We try to understand it more fully. And yet we realize that before we leave the room empowered to do the work, we need to pause around the Altar and gather ourselves into the process of being able to take in the Body and the Blood of Christ. The Spirit of Jesus animates and enables us to truly live the message.

Let us pray that all of us grow in our ability and understanding to be truly consecrated to this Truth.

 

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