7th Sunday of Easter
7th Sunday of Easter
In the Gospel we are at the Last Supper, in Jerusalem. Jesus is with his disciples. He has instituted the Eucharist, washed their feet; Judas has left to betray him. Jesus is about to die. He raises his eyes to heaven and prays. This is the high priestly prayer of Jesus. It fills chapter 17 of the St John's Gospel. Today we hear Jesus praying for the disciples he is about to leave. He is praying for their protection: may they remain in the truth, true to the Father, protected from the Evil One, united by love, their mission before them.
In the Acts of the Apostles' Six and a half weeks later. We are still in Jerusalem. But much has happened. The Lord has been crucified. He has risen. He has ascended to his Father. It's the time between the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit some ten days later at the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Just where we are now in the Liturgy. The ascension last Thursday, Pentecost next Sunday.
Here - perhaps the same room as that of the Last Supper - is the whole Church, 'about a hundred and twenty persons'. They are there in obedience to Jesus who told them to wait for coming of the Spirit. They are praying. Peter stands up. The vacancy left by Judas must be filled. The number of apostles must be brought back up to twelve. And so they pray, asking for guidance - who should replace the traitor. They ask the Lord to show them who to choose, a sign that this is God's choice, not theirs, a gift - not something they create, the will of God that 12 men are given authority to proclaim the Gospel to the whole of creation, to be witnesses of the Resurrection to the world.
Here we see Jesus' prayer in the Gospel answered by the Father and heard by the disciples. They are remaining in the truth. They are still one. They are preparing for the mission Jesus gave them. Jesus' great high-priestly prayer continues in heaven and guards the Church: 'I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the Evil One.'
One generation forward in time and we come to the Second Reading. St John writing to a Christian community somewhere in what is now Turkey. Again, much has happened. The Holy Spirit has come. The Gospel has been preached. Pagans as well as Jews have come to know Jesus. Local churches have been founded. The Church is growing. Here is John giving his apostolic witness: 'We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his son as Saviour of the world.' He calls his listeners to remain in this truth and in mutual love. We hear again the prayer of Jesus echoing in the heart of the early Church and we begin to recognise ourselves at the beginning of the twenty first century, in our work, doing exams, facing difficult times and decisions, trying to remain faithful to Jesus. Jesus' prayer is for us too; it began at the Last Supper, continued on the Cross, was taken up to heaven and is present in every Sacrifice of the Mass - the overflowing into the world of a prayer now prayed in heaven.
'Keep those you have given me true to your name...may they be one like us...protect them from the Evil One...consecrate them in the truth.' This is the prayer Jesus still offers for each of us.
Acknowledgement Rt Rev. Hugh Gilbert OSB Bishop of Aberdeen