|The Seventh Sunday of Easter
In archdioceses and dioceses of the United States and in other parts of the world where the Feast of the Ascension is celebrated last Thursday.
|In archdioceses and dioceses of the US states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington or in parts of the world where the celebration of Ascension is transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the Daily Reflection and readings may be found here:|
|So as to be more available to the graces of these readings, we might
imagine the Apostles sitting in attentive silence at their graduation ceremony.
They are dressed in their caps and gowns and Jesus has a few more little
things to tell them before handing over their diplomas and sending them
out on their way.
We listen to his valediction as well and thinking nervously about the “world” he says has hated him and will hate us.
Here in the United States, we are praying the liturgy of the Sunday between the feast of the Ascension and the celebration of Pentecost. We are praying with the graces of being called to be in and with the Apostles in being a new “way,” the Church. We rely on what has been handed down to us from our ancestors in the faith. They believed what they had been given, preached what they believed and lived what they preached. We pray these days before the celebration of the official birth of the Church, that we would receive more deeply what we believe and live more fruitfully what we are claimed to be by Jesus. We can pray to live in this world which resists God’s love and commandments. We can pray with the frailty of this same church which was founded upon the fishermen and bankers of those times. They floundered and fell and rose again to proclaim the compassion of the Founder. So the Founder and the “flounder” began it all and we pray with the gentle excitement of our being called anew to his compassionate service to this same “world”.
The early church grew by word of mouth and those who had heard with their ears and seen with their eyes began speaking of the wonders and of the man. Judas had heard and seen, but the wonders and the man seemed to be kind of an insult to his own ways. He had bought into self establishment and so cashed in his disciple chips.
What we hear in the First Reading is the story of how Judas’ place was taken by one who had heard and seen and who was willing to have his words continue the drama of the wonders and the man. The group decided to pray and then draw straws or something like that. Matthias was the one called to now be called an “Apostle” or the “One Sent”. Was it fate or faith, God’s will or just luck which decided the issue? Maybe it was God’s will that they trusted God’s care for them, that the devices at hand would assist their trusting God more. It does seem like a simple way to solve political or religious struggles; just do something while trusting that God will bless it.
There is a precious tenderness about Jesus as he speaks his final words to his little group of followers. He is sending them out to be leaders and he prays for them and over them. In this account, Judas has slipped out into the night’s darkness and Jesus prays in thanksgiving for the gift of faith which those who remain possess and will profess in “the world”.
Jesus puts them and himself in direct opposition to the “world”. As he collected the fragments of bread and fish after the feeding of the crowd in chapter six, so Jesus prays for safety for his little band. They too will be in conflict with the “world” and will be sent to orchestrate the continuing of the collection of souls.
The “world” for John is both a place and a spirit. The “earth”, that world was created in Christ, so the place is still sacred. The “spirit” of the “world” hates Jesus, because it does not want a dependent relationship; it wants to be free from its awareness that it is not its own creator. That spirit hates Justice, charity, chastity, community, fidelity and all that Jesus is and shared.
There were two men proposed by the larger group of followers to replace Judas on the starting team of Apostles. Matthias got the, the, hmm, what? Did he win and Barsabbas was considered the loser? It has been said that “All the world loves a winner.” The Spirit of the “world” promotes winning, because then there will be many “losers”. One horse, one team, one-elected official wins and they will win until they join the ranks of the “losers”. Shame results from trying and the spirit of the “world” urges shame to turn to quitting.
As he speaks these words, Jesus is heading for a major defeat, a real loss, but in himself, not a defeat nor shame. His listeners too will lose contact with who they are and experience their own personal failure that very night. Judas was the only “winner” that night; he got the prize of handing over Jesus and being handed the silver metal. The spirit of the “world” had a great, but temporary, triumph. When Jesus prays that they be “consecrated” he prays that they, like he himself, would rise from their apparent shame of losing, and experience his victory as their own. With the Resurrection, Jesus is freed to battle the “world” and its effects on our minds, hearts and souls.
Our expectations and those which others have for us can unresurrectionalise us, bring us down and tempt us to quit. We can never meet all our high hopes. We can never live the Gospel’s invitations perfectly. We will never live the Eucharist in a roundly holy manner. The “world” will quietly say to us that if we do not do what we say we will, then we are hypocrites and we should be more authentic by not trying. The “world” hated Jesus and it hates the Church and all of us who try. Recently, while preparing a couple for marriage, I was asked by the fellow who was not Catholic, exactly what Catholics do. I reached for the phone and called the parish where I am privileged to celebrate the weekend liturgy. When the secretary answered, I asked her, “what do Catholics do?” Without a wink she replied, “well, Catholics try.” That answer did not convert the fellow, but it did shut him up for a while.
Jesus offers the Apostles and the Church a prayer for trying and a reason to rise when the seduction to shame and quitting accompany our not winning. Judas ultimately threw his silver metal away and his life as well, because he could not keep trying. We are winners who though sinners, allow the “Collector” to find us.
“This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,that he has given us of hisSpirit.” II John, 4 13
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