The Seventh Sunday of Easter – 24 May 2020
Lectionary Readings: Acts 1:12-14; Ps 27:1, 4, 7-8; 1 Pet 4:13-16; John 17:1-11a
Theme: Prayerful Waiting
The whole world waits in anticipation but also with uncertainty, the first light of dawn, during the darkness of this pandemic COVID-19. We have been living expecting the unexpected, the pandemic panic. How long will they last, these hours of darkness? What have we learnt about our world and ourselves? To quote from Rahm Emanuel: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste… it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
The apostles, after the ascension were told to wait and pray, “prayerful waiting”, for the descending of the Holy Spirit. They were waiting in anticipation with faith and hope, after witnessing the resurrection and the ascension, that there would be a Pentecost. For us now, in our journey of life and faith, it is a good thing that we make use of this opportunity, perhaps using the Novena Prayer, waiting and praying for the grace of the renewed life of Pentecost next Sunday.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke relates the happenings after the ascension. Luke’s second book Acts, narrates separately the three mysteries of the Easter event – the resurrection, the ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Christians celebrate the Lord’s resurrection on the third day, his ascension on the fortieth day and on the fiftieth day the descending of the Holy Spirit. “While he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.’” (Acts 1:4)
The Gospel reading of today from John 17:1-11, is part of Jesus’ high priestly prayer – the name given to the prayer in which Christ, before he died, offered himself as both priest and victim. Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah spoken of as “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4), and so John presents Jesus as the king-priest reigning from the cross. “The expression ‘to consecrate’ is applied to two things: the priest was consecrated, that is, set apart to offer the sacrifice, and he also consecrated (made holy) the victim on sacrificing it” (Christian Community Bible). This is a prayer of consecration, because Jesus consecrates himself for his approaching redemptive death. Actually, this prayer reflects an elaborate meditation on the thoughts and aspirations of our Lord. Jesus begins his passion with prayer. Our Lord meditates on what he has to do. He recommends his disciples to his father. He has made them known to the Father. But this is also a prayer of Jesus for the new holy people. Verse 11 implies that the apostles must go out into the world and, filled with Jesus’ Spirit, teach all nations.
The task of a Christian in the world is not an easy one. As the Lord prayed in the difficult hours of his life, so we should do the same, especially during this week of prayerful waiting, preparing for Pentecost. This is also the last time Mary is mentioned in the New Testament as a member of the believing community engaged in prayerful waiting. We are in good company if we make this week a time of special prayer: “Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful!” “Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call: have pity on me, and answer me” (Responsorial Psalm).
The second reading, from the First Letter of Peter, reminds us of the biblical value of suffering. It also challenges us to take up our cross daily. Every day we ask Christ to take the lead so that we can follow him. This is what we are going through during this pandemic panic of COVID-19.
In conclusion, I find the opening prayer for this Sunday an uplifting experience of Christ among us. “Graciously hear our supplication, O Lord, so that we, who believe that the Savior of the human race is with you in your glory, may experience, as he promised, until the end of the world, his abiding presence among us”. (Sunday Missal)
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What challenges and opportunities will our Novena, “Prayerful Waiting” for the Pentecost of 2020 bring to us? 2. What challenges and opportunities have we experienced during this Pandemic COVID-19 in our faith journey? 3. Consecration, set apart, Kadosh (Sacred), qadash and qadosh (“to be holy”): how do I experience this?
Bibliography: Christian Community Bible (Quezon City, 2005); Sunday Missal (New Jersey, 2011)