This is the Sunday after Ascension Thursday and the Sunday before Pentecost. We prepare for celebrating the Eucharist by the way we live our previous Holy Exchange. We pray to enjoy being believers. We pray to live as women and men who trust the spiritual gifts we have received beginning with Baptism and strengthened through Confirmation. We pray in the freedom of knowing who we are as gifts from God at this time and in this place.
We can pray as well with the quiet faith and presence of Mary, the Mother of Jesus; Mary whose actions spoke louder than her words. We believe she is present in our “upper rooms” when we gather as Church. Her words are not recorded at Jesus’ death nor Resurrection, but she stayed faithful while she watched what she could not change. We too can pray for that same trusting of the mysteries.
The Acts of the Apostles, which is the scriptural history of the
Holy Spirit’s working in the early Church, shares with us
today a tender story. We hear from the first chapter about how the
early eleven who had watched Jesus ascend, returned to Jerusalem
to pray. We hear their names and then the name of Mary with whom
they gather to pray in the “upper room”. That is all
we hear, but there is much there.
Imagine this scene. They are all of the Jewish tradition which was strictly a male-first structure. So the men arrive back from Mount Olivet and there is Mary with other women waiting for them. Peter who knows his fragile past looks at Mary whose faithful past Peter also knows. So does Peter clear his throat and begin, “Let us pray?” Mary had been ordained by the Holy Spirit to present the body and person of Jesus to the world. Not a cultic priest, Mary presided at the first sharing of His body by allowing Him to share her body. Does Peter invite her to lead the prayers, probably not, because that was not the tradition. This is such a tender time for them all.
Mary, the Mother of the Church, Mary the Mediatrix of All Graces, Mary, Mother of Mercy, embraces Peter with a look and a nod. Quietly she begins her role in the gathering. In her gestures she says, “let us pray.” Of all the “Scripture” settings allowed us, this is one I would have loved attending. This is the first Consistory, not with keys locking them in, but waiting for the Spirit to breathe them out into the waiting world. The sense of personal resurrection in that room would be more powerful than any A.A. meeting ever could be. How could they ever want to leave that kind of union and intimacy? With the coming of the Holy Spirit, their going out would continue their oneness.
The Gospel is a retrospect, a looking backwards in time. The scene is the “upper room” the night of His betrayal, arrest and personal sufferings. Jesus speaks to His “Father” on behalf of His little band of brothers. In the Gospel of John, Jesus on the Cross is the supreme display of “glory”. It is the final and ultimate “sign” of the “authority” which the Father has given Him, the “authority” of extending eternal life to all who would believe in His being “sent”.
Jesus prays for His followers who will remain in the “world” while Jesus is no longer in that same “world”. Jesus Who was sent into the “world” as a gift, has given the gift of life to His Apostles and is praying that they would remain consecrated. The “world” who has hated Him and who will hate them, is both a place and a spirit opposed to goodness. They will suffer for their beliefs as they will soon see Him suffer through hatred. Peter’s Epistle in our Second Reading reinforces this spirit. If we are “Christians” then we will suffer for the goodness of Christ life within us.
In Catholic grade schools when I was a lad, we read a magazine by the name of Treasure Chest. It would have all kinds of stories for our age and especially about kids our age who suffered and died for the name of Jesus. We wondered and even prayed about whether we could or wanted to die such martyrdoms. Now that I am older I have realized the sufferings of living for rather than, dying for His name and kingdom. The Apostles gathered around Jesus, the group gathered around Peter and Mary, the groups who gather around the Eucharistic Table, all leave to live our days under the influence of the goodness of God. Jesus continues praying over us as we belong to God, “They are Yours,” He says of us. Suffering as Christians can come from inside us as well as from other Christians and that “world-spirit” around us. We can suffer, because we are so oriented to know according to the ways of this world and we stand there with our faith hanging out. We suffer the invitations to forgive, heal, seek peace with justice, and with the call to hope that faith implies.
Mary, Peter, the early Church and the late, John Paul II and you belong to the goodness of God freely offered and not always received. Mary is still giving us the nod which again means, “Let us pray.” She who suffered for her faith until the Resurrection, still welcomes us back to the community gathered together to receive Christ’s continuous prayer over us in the Eucharist.
With that world of good
Lines from The May Magnificat
G. M. Hopkins, S.J. 1878
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