7th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-8) (13)
1 Peter 4:13-16
May 24, 2020
On Thursday we celebrated the Ascension of Jesus. The apostles witnessed Jesus ascend to Heaven. Today we hear that they then “returned to Jerusalem” and “went to the upper room.”
Remember how after the tomb was found empty, they gathered in the locked room for “fear of the Jews”. Are they doing any different now? How come they aren’t going out to proclaim the gospel?
They are not hiding. In fact, they are doing what Jesus instructed. Just before his Ascension, “he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
They are waiting for Pentecost.
They had experienced much in recent days. Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, giving us the Eucharist. They were in agony when He was crucified. They were confused over the empty tomb until Jesus appeared to them risen. Then, He spent forty days with them teaching them how the scriptures were fulfilled in all that happened and what it meant.
Now…now they wait. One might think of it as a retreat as they “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.”
We are now in this time between Ascension and Pentecost. This year has brought a Lent and Easter like no other. We have been in waiting in sort of an in-between time since mid-March when the Coronavirus led to the shutdown of life as we were used to.
Before the Coronavirus, we knew what we had and we were used to it. At the center of our church life was the public celebration of the Eucharist. Now, we are in this time of waiting. The shutdown will end. Public celebration of the Eucharist will return. The date remains uncertain but we are making preparations.
For now, we wait. It is not easy. As part of our waiting, we do what the apostles did between Ascension and Pentecost. We devote ourselves “with one accord to prayer.”
In their prayer of waiting, one would expect they did a lot of reflecting on their experiences with Jesus. The prayer we hear Jesus offer in today’s gospel would have been part of their experience.
Chapters 14-17 of John’s Gospel are a farewell discourse from Jesus. He knows his hour has come and He prepares his disciples with a final discourse. What we hear today comes from chapter 17, which is known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. It is a prayer that Jesus offers to the Father but the disciples are there to witness this prayer.
Jesus begins his prayer by acknowledging “the hour has come.” He prays “give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you.”
As a human event, crucifixion was a humiliating event. For Jesus, with the Resurrection, it is a glorifying event. It shows his total surrender to the Father’s Will. For this, Jesus is glorified and raised up in the Resurrection. This validates all that Jesus did. It shows that everything Jesus did gives glory to the Father.
Jesus expresses this in his words to the Father, “I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.” It was not easy. Jesus suffered greatly. We are to do the work that God has given us to do. In doing so, we too glorify the Father. It may not be easy. We may suffer for it. Our willingness to suffer in the name of Christ is something we rejoice in. We might not like the suffering but we rejoice in God’s presence with us as we suffer.
Right now, we face difficultly from the Coronavirus. Is it suffering? In human terms, it is at least challenging. It isn’t punishment for being Christian (all religions are being treated the same) but our response does show our faith.
I have to admit that at times I find it very difficult. I miss you. I just want things “back to normal.” As we make preparations to open, it wears on me to think about the precautions. There will be no cup, no Sign of Peace, and we will be social distancing with face masks. When we reopen, it will be with reduced capacity. How will we deal with that? We are working on that. As we work on this, please pray for our parish leadership, pray with one accord like the apostles.
It is a challenge. Yet, I know our efforts will be successful because God is with us.
Remember John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Remember Jesus’ words that He will not leave us orphans, that He will ask the Father to send us another Advocate, the Holy Spirit. The first disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism and are sealed with the Spirit at Confirmation.
We can struggle in earthly things. We do so remembering Jesus’ words “I pray for them.” Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, also interceding for us. Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us to accomplish the work the Father has given us so that we glorify him.