of Creighton University's Online Ministries
June 7th, 2011
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We have two “farewell addresses” in the liturgy today to ponder. It doesn’t take a great deal of time to discover a fundamental parallel between the texts from the witness of Luke (Acts of the Apostles) and John. Paul asserts that his journey is nearly over. He is heading toward Jerusalem where he will face almost certain suffering and possibly even death. But what is uppermost in his mind is: “. . . if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.”
Similarly, today’s gospel text witnesses that Jesus, in a prayer to the Father as part of his farewell address prays: “ I glorified you [Father] on earth, by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.” Just as Jesus is preparing to depart from this life, He renders an account of his mission to the Father.
Paul, in the face of probable death, also renders an account of his mission – and essentially it is the work that Jesus sent him to do – a portion of Jesus’ own work. By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we will celebrate at the end of this week in the Feast of Pentecost, Paul is clearly asserting that we (the Church) have received a task from Jesus that he had originally received from the Father – the proclamation of the good news and the realization by our lives of God’s Kingdom here on earth. This is made actual in the Church when the Baptized accomplish the work that Jesus gave us to do: to bear witness (by the way we live our lives) to the members of our own community and to the world (“Jews and Greeks” in Paul’s terms) to the true repentance (that is rejection of sinful or self-willed choices) before God; and to faith (that is, behavior in keeping with Jesus’ way of being human) in our Lord Jesus.
As we end the Easter Season with its liturgical focus on Jesus’ defeat of the power of the “world” – that is, death and fear of death – we are challenged to turn to Ordinary Time, inaugurated by Pentecost, when we ponder the passing of the active work of Jesus’ mission to His disciples of every generation. Jesus’ farewell prayer becomes ours, because we have been given to him by the Father and are now filled with His own Spirit of truth and life.
It is an escape for us to think that God will be glorified only in the afterlife by the way the saints care for one another or love one another – even their enemies or those who want to do them harm. God is sending us here in this life, in the face of persecution, suffering, and even death to love and care for every person, especially the least among us.
Fear of death or fear of suffering often slows us down and makes us timid to take on the work of serving one another in Jesus’ name. Fear of shame or being made a fool of; fear of poverty or the inability to take care of ourselves; fear of being alone or outcast by those we value; fear that if someone disagrees with our ideology we might be wrong; fear that God does not really love us and so we have to earn that love . . . all these and other self-centered fears are essentially the work of the enemy of God who attempts to stop the work of Christ in us to bring the whole world to the Father. As this Easter Season comes to an end my own prayer is that I can say with Paul: The only thing important is that “I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.”
May the Spirit make it so for all of us!
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