Sunday, June 1, 2014

June 1 Seventh Sunday of Easter

A biblical reflection on the SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, 1 June 2014)
Gospel Reading: John 17:1-11a
First Reading: Acts 1:12-14; Psalms: Psalm 27:1,4,7-8, Second Reading: 1 Peter 4:13-16
When Jesus has spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee, since Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom Thou has given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. ‘I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou gavest Me to do; and now, Father, glorify Thou Me in Thy own presence with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was made.”
“I have manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy word. Now they know that everything that Thou hast given Me is from Thee; for I have given them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from Thee; and they have believed that Thou didst send Me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom Thou hast given me, for they are Thine; all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to Thee.” (John 17:1-11a RSV)
Last Thursday, we celebrated the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. Next week, we will commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit. This intervening Sunday serves as a bridge between these two outstanding liturgical events.
The first reading, from the “Acts of the Apostles”, captures the spirit of the early Church. This vivid account shows the apostles (in fact, the entire Church) gathered in the “Upper Room” for a combination business meeting and spiritual retreat. The pressing business at hand was to select someone to replace Judas. There was an urgency about this, since the Church membership numbered 120 (Acts 1:15). This was the minimum number necessary, in Jewish law, for an official Sanhedrin – a people’s court. The Jewish law also stated that the officers of the organization should one tenth of the membership. A replacement for Judas Iscariot therefore was necessary to make 12 leaders – the one tenth requirement.
This passage also mentions that Mary, Mother of Jesus, was present at this gathering. It’s the last mention of her in Sacred Scripture. She too had been the bridge between the old and the new. Her first scriptural appearance is found in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, where she is asked to be the mother of Jesus. Her final appearance is in the first chapter of Acts, Luke’s second book. Here she is the mother of the newborn Church which is struggling to grow. Before she leaves the salvation scene, her work completed, Mary will assist the infant Church to stand and walk on its own, as she had done for the child Jesus.
The “Upper Room” is also an intriguing part of this story. It’s the original central office of Christianity, although as yet the members were not known as Christians but simply as “the Brethren.” They would be called Christians only later, at Antioch (Acts 11:26).
Missing the physical presence of Jesus and anxiously awaiting the Holy Spirit, the Brethren find strength in nine days of prayer in their favorite meeting place. Here they participate in the first novena with the intention of opening their lives to the influence of the Holy Spirit and conditioning themselves to be at His service.
The Church today, now grown to millions of parishioners and encircling the entire world, still calls us to imitate the “Brethren” in a pre-Pentecost novena. As we gather together in the Upper Room – our own parish churches – we can reflect on the long road of the past and our pressing needs for today. Here we can pray that the Holy Spirit will move and direct us – the Christian sisters and brothers of the 21st century.
Short Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray for the unity of Christians around the world. Send the Spirit anew to Your whole Church this Pentecost. Amen.
Jakarta, 31 May 2014 [Visitation of Mary]

A Christian Pilgrim

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