Sunday, May 16, 2010

Holy Father, I Pray Not Only For Them, But For All Who Will Believe In Me Through Their Word. As You Are In Me and I In You, May They Be One In Us.

Seventh Sunday of Easter
Reading I
Acts 7:55-60
Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said,
“Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees
and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them;”
and when he said this, he fell asleep.
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Psalm 97
The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth.
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many islands be glad.
Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
All gods are prostrate before him.
The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth.
You, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth,
exalted far above all gods.
The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth.
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Reading II
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17
I, John, heard a voice saying to me:
“Behold, I am coming soon.
I bring with me the recompense I will give
to each according to his deeds
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end.”

Blessed are they who wash their robes
so as to have the right to the tree of life
and enter the city through its gates.

“I, Jesus, sent my angel
to give you this testimony for the churches.
I am the root and offspring of David,
the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
Let the hearer say, “Come.”
Let the one who thirsts come forward,
and the one who wants it
receive the gift of life-giving water.

The one who gives this testimony says,
“Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
John 17:20-26
Lifting up his eyes to heaven,
Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, I pray not only for them,
but also for those who will believe
in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me
before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”
In our First Reading from The Acts of the Apostles, we  hear of the stoning and death of the first martyr of the Christian Way, Steven. There are several similarities between his final moments and those of Jesus at His death. What lead Steven to this handing over his life was also similar to what led to the death of Jesus. Both did miracles and wondrous signs. Both were received by some and rejected by others, especially the religious authorities. Steven was confronted for his good works by those who made up falsehoods about what he had said about the Temple and the replacing of the Sacred Law of Moses by the teachings of Jesus.

Steven is taken before the officials who ask him about the truth of what he has been teaching. The previous fifty-four verses of the chapter from which our reading is taken is an historical recounting of God’s interventions with the Jewish people. He concludes with his telling the Jewish leaders that they were stubborn and had pagan ears. They were just like their ancestors who resisted and rejected the prophets before then.

As with Jesus, the leaders were threatened by these words and as with Jesus, they seized Steven, took him out of the city and killed him. His last words were echoes of the final words of Jesus, “Forgive them” and “Into your hands I turn over my spirit”. While all this is going on, there is a casual mention that the people were showing honor to a fiery prosecutor of these new believers, Saul. We will hear of him later and often.

The Gospel passage is taken from the last chapter of the last meal, class, prayer-service and conversation they would have with Jesus. It has the features of a “love-letter”. There are the expressions of a deep desire for union. Jesus is one with the Father and longs to share that with his friends and through them to the “world”. As with a love-letter, there are strong statements of being “sent” and a wishing to be received. Jesus knows that these friends are a “gift” from God to Him. He loves them as He knows the Father loves Him.

Jesus longs for His friends to receive that love as a part of their knowing and receiving themselves. The “world” is not here “the globe”, but those who do not and have not received Jesus as the Love-Letter from God. Jesus has been preparing His friends for their becoming incarnations of His love for the “world” to whom He is sending them.

These intimate sharings are going to be sacramentalised by the actions of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Love is shown in deeds as well as protested with words. Love is the exchange of all that one has with the other who does the same. Jesus has said the words, has lived the words and even to His totally handing over to us all the love He receives from His Father. Intimacy results in fruitfulness. All that He gave, He now gives. All that He shared with the apostles, He says now to us. He is sent to bring us to life and that life is our receiving and exchanging with that same world. Reception of a love-letter, of gifts, of any intimacy is not an end, but a beginning of living with and then beyond the experience of being so loved.

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