Taken from A Catholic Moment;
The end of Easter Season is very close as we could see it even from our directions. The Ascension of the Lord into heaven opens another important moment meant to perfect the Easter festivity; the Pentecost. The Pentecost not only concludes the Pascal mystery that reaches its “summum punctum” at Easter, but it equally perpetuates it. It is the ourpouring of the Holy Spirit that made it possible for the apostles to remember (anamnesis).
Thus the message we could derive from the readings of today is, “waiting in prayer.”
This is evidently underlined in the first reading. The second reading reports it differently as Peter invites his audience to suffer only for the sake of the Lord while waiting in patience for his manifestation in glory. And the gospel presents Jesus and his apostles waiting in prayer before his imminent passion.
We too must wait and watch in prayer.
The first reading reports the return of the disciples from mount Olivet where they went to see their Master off for his glorious journey into heaven. It reminds us the Old Testament account of Elisha that accompanied Elijah his master to Jericho where he was taken in the whirlwind to heaven by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:1-14).
Thus, the return of the disciples to the upper room was the beginning of their Pentecost retreat. It was meant to be a period of incubation, waiting to be hatched by the power of the Holy Spirit, the only force capable of breaking them away from the shell of fear and timidity.
The passage refers to the humble beginning of the Church; the Church in prayer before her public mission. It is the very first time that it was reported in the scripture that the apostles with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus devoted themselves in prayer.
The emphasis made by Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles about Mary the mother of Jesus was not just to mark her presence or exalt her as the mother of Jesus, but it was an effort to emphasize her presence as an indispensable instrument in the life of the early Church. Thus, it is the passage from which the Church drew most her inspiration in affirming the centrality of Mary in the life of the Church (Mother of the Church).
Unlike the other evangelists, Luke had this particular attention in women and children in his narratives. His accounts featured a wide variety of personages, men and women, and also more open to the gentile world. He underlined in several passages the role played by women in the public ministry of Jesus. At this phase of the life of the Church, he still mentions the presence of women as a way to signal their place in the Body of Christ, the Church and as partakers of the mission that will be born on the day of Pentecost.
Luke was very clear about the agenda for the gathering in the upper room. He underlined prayer as a preparatory activity towards the Pentecost in order that they may have a clear understanding of the directives of the Holy Spirit when He comes.
This passage is the inspirational source for what we have today as Pentecost novena.
Driving is made easy, enjoyable and faster when the road is smooth. But the moment one comes across a rough road, he suffers to roll the vehicle. However, the irony is that one on a smooth road is more exposed to accident because of the temptation of going on a high speed. On the contrary, the one who drives on the rough road carefully makes sure that his vehicle does not suffer damages. This could be analogous to faith experience. Sometimes when life is smooth, faith may suffer banality because one may be carried away forgetting that smoothness carries risks. On the other hand, faith lived amidst challenges could weigh hard, but with applied patience it is sure and safer. Suffering is an existential reality inevitably imprinted in the life of man. But when this man is connected to his God through faith, he often expect that it should be the end of his suffering. And if this expectation is not met, the faith suffers.
This is the pastoral challenge that Peter deals with in today’s epistle. The Jewish converts to Christianity had the challenge of giving up many of the long-cherished traditions of their fathers that made their Jewish friends to desert them. And for the Gentile converts, embracing christianity was indeed a real struggle, a breaking away from a life they were very much used to. But then Peter reminds them that their interior struggle and suffering of any sort must be for the sake of righteousness. For suffering as a murderer, a thief, a wrong-doer, a mischief-maker has no link in the passion of Christ who suffered for the sake of righteousness. And if they have to suffer for the sake of Christ, then it should be a privilege and a thing of joy: “Rejoice, to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ. Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but should glorify God because of the Name.”
God in Jesus identifies with us in our human conditions. We are never left alone. And when we suffer for his sake or when we embrace the challenges that come our way with faith and constancy in him, then he allows us to undergo a process of purgation which is a necessary means to our salvation. Let our suffering therefore be just and in righteousness, for it is only then that it will be identified with the suffering of Christ. It is only then that it becomes salvific.
Today’s Gospel gives us the first part of Jesus’ solemn prayer at the Last Supper. John presents it not just as a prayer but also as an account of a mission accomplished. It is a passage popularly described as the High priestly prayer of Jesus.
The “Birkat Kohanim” is a priestly blessing described by the Torah as reserved only to Aaron and his sons (the priestly lineage). But then it is Yahweh himself who dictates the formula for the blessing: “This is how you must bless the Israelites. You will say: May Yahweh bless you and keep you. May Yahweh let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May Yahweh show you his face and bring you peace.”This is how they must call down my name on the Israelites, and then I shall bless them.’ (Nb 6:23-27).
John closes Jesus’s last moment with his Apostles with this episode of solemn priestly benediction. He presides as High Priest, offering himself first of all as victim for the sins of the world, and intercedes for his disciples, the 12 new tribes of Israel through whom the new people of Israel will be born just as the high priest interceded for people of the 12 tribes of Israel.
The first part of the prayer is centred on Jesus who asks the Father to cloth him with the eternal glory he shared with him from the beginning as a remuneration of his faithfulness to the mission accomplished. He equally consecrates himself to the Father as an eternal offering, a perfect victim for the redemption of the world.
In the second part of the Prayer, Jesus petitions the Father to bless his apostles because they acknowledged his divine sonship and accepted his Word. He contrasts the identity of his apostles with the world. The world in this context means not accepting Jesus as the Son of God and not believing in the Word of God.
This passage of the gospel of John is known as the longest prayer of Jesus in all the four gospels. It offers two key dimensions of prayer:
Prayer as a thanksgiving: Jesus began first by acknowledging his submissiveness to the Father who alone can glory him, and further glorified the Father just like in the Hallowed be your name of the traditional “Pater Noster”
Prayer of petition: Jesus showed this to be the inferior part of prayer. It is a request to God that asks him to fulfill a need. It is a prayer that acknowledges God as a provident Father in whom all things depend. Here Jesus begs his Father to bless those he has given him. From this particular dimension of prayer, he demonstrated one of the attitudes of prayer; ‘the prayer of intercession.’ It is a prayer of mediation; standing for and on behalf of the other.
The best motto for any believer should be “in everything, prayer.” Prayer is not only an act but it is a way of life. It is an expression of our ‘belongingness’ to the Father. It is the breath of the spirit and soul of the christian life. Just like an automobile requires an energy generating element in order to move, the life of a believer remains static without prayer.
Jesus teaches us today of the need to renew our prayer life by always lifting our eyes to heaven. When John says Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven, it signifies something more than just an attitude of prayer. It is a pointer to those who believe that their life must transcend beyond this world, and that it is only through their constant gaze on the Father that they will be able to defeat the ‘world’.
Prayer is an expression of our being, and our being is a being from God. Thus, our life has no meaning apart from the one it derives from its Owner.
Jesus said, “I have manifested your name to the men whom you gave me out of the world.” In other words, I have lived the way you wanted that I should live. There is no other way to glorify the Father than through the type of life we live. When we live the life of integrity, we are glorifying the Father. When we are honest and truthful in our dealings with other, we glorify the Father. And when we refuse to close our eyes in pretence from seeing those wounded by life or shut our ears from the cry of the poor or allow our hearts to feel their pain and our hands to come to their aid, then we glorify the Father.
As today Mark’s the end of the one week celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si” of the Holy Father Pope Francis’ we are invited to pray. “All is connected” is the beautiful theme that guided the one week reflection in which the Holy Father asks us, “What type of world do we wish to leave behind for those who will come after us, to the kids who are growing up?” And he invites us to an urgent need of responding to the ecological crisis, the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor who could wait no longer. We must take care of creation, gift of our good God, the Creator.
The viral epidemic we are suffering today, the global warming and other harms are as a result of greedy and frivolous attitude of man towards his God, his fellow man and the rest of creation.
Let us renew our intention and transform our approach in order to promote an integral ecology.