May 24, 2023
by Jay Carney 
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Lectionary: 299  

Acts 20:28-38
Psalm 68:29-30, 33-35a, 35bc-36ab
John 17:11b-19

Celebrating Easter

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Finding Our Way Back Home: Getting Un-Stuck in Prayer Life

Throughout the Easter season, the lectionary has been leading us through the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John. However, there is no guarantee of synergy between the first reading and the gospel. But today, one cannot help but note several common themes that emerge in Paul’s and Jesus’s farewell speeches as each approaches the end of his earthly ministry.

First, I am struck by the discourse of threat. Both Paul and Jesus are clearly worried about what might happen to his followers after he departs the scene. Jesus prays fervently to his Father to protect his beloved disciples from “the Evil One.” For his part, Paul speaks of the impending arrival of “savage wolves” bent on destroying the flock at Ephesus, wolves that might even come from among the ranks of the presbyters and other leaders of the local church. The realities of suffering, betrayal, and confusion were as real in the first-century church as they are today.

Second, both Jesus and Paul intercede fervently for their followers. Paul recounts how he has “unceasingly admonished each of you with tears,” and the reading ends with an emotional scene of collective crying, hugs, and laments as Paul issues a final au revoir on the beaches of Miletus. Meanwhile, Jesus passionately invokes his Father’s love, truth, and providential care, consecrating himself for the sake of his sheep. There is a real personal pathos here that should not be overlooked. Paul and Jesus are not sleepwalking through life, waiting patiently in a spirit of calm, Stoic expectation. No, they are praying passionately, calling on God the Father’s protective power and exhorting the embryonic church to stay faithful to her mission.

Herein may lie a lesson for us. I for one can easily fall prey to the temptation that all is foreordained. Why does my prayer even matter? God knows what I need before I ask. Whatever will be, will be. But this thinking is not Christian. For in the Christian worldview, the Triune God is a web of relationality, what the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe once called an “eternal explosion of love which is at once Father, Son, and Spirit.” This God desires that we not passively receive “God’s plan,” but rather that we actively seek, discern, and do God’s will. This is a God whose Son told so many, “your faith has saved you.”

As we move through Pentecost and beyond, may God help us to pray deeply, to seek God’s desire for our hearts, to cry out, even to weep, knowing that this is how we will be consecrated in the truth.    

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