Seventh Sunday of Easter • Year C

Nicholas F. Martorano, O.S.A.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Friary
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Acts 7:55-60
Ps 97:1-2, 6-7, 9
Rev 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
Jn 17:20-26

If you are old enough or enjoy history you might remember the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s motivated by Lech Walesa and the worker unions. In 1989, Solidarity even was strong enough to win the elections in Poland as Communism fell and soon after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Lech Walesa, together with St. John Paul II, motivated the people with their strong beliefs and faith in God. And so others were moved to follow the great changes they experienced taking place in Poland.

Now, if you ever have been involved on a sports team or any group that has a mission or goal to accomplish, you can understand better how working together as a whole will bring about success. And when someone like Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II, a strong coach, or even a father of the family gives motivational witness to rally everyone, those involved are inspired to do their best to be successful. At the same time a spirit is created that changes the entire atmosphere of the group.

It looks this way in the Gospel today. Jesus has a project He wants accomplished by the Apostles and so He is praying for its success. He prays: “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.” Why? “So that the world will believe that you sent me.” Three times He says, “that the world may know that you sent me.” He wants to emphasize this and make it clear that He truly is the Son of God, the Savior, the One who was promised.

What an inspirational and motivational prayer Jesus gave for His Disciples and for all who will be called to witness to His name. St. Stephen, whom we encounter in the First Reading, is a great example. He became a martyr for Jesus. His faith, through the Holy Spirit, was his motivating force. It would allow him to die for Jesus and even ask for forgiveness for those who stoned him to death. At that moment, Stephen gave the highest form of witness by becoming a martyr for his faith in Jesus.

Next week we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost which gave to the Apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that brought them the courage and strength needed to bring the Message of Salvation to the world – just what Jesus was praying for today in the Gospel. He said, “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.” Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to unite and motivate those who follow Him and to bring a new atmosphere. The Spirit would make them and us one with Christ and one with each other so we can give a powerful witness to others for Him. Like the Apostles, we have a mission and goal to accomplish in this world – to make known God the Father’s love for all people. This is the work of the Church. Our work. It began at our Baptisms and was strengthened in Confirmation.

What a challenge this is for us as Christians! It should make us ask some important questions. For example, what and where is the world to which Jesus sends us? Obviously, not the entire world we know, but it could be the “smaller world” of our family, or workplace. It could be the world of our circle of friends and neighbors or even your Church community. The Lord sends you armed with His Word! The Word that gives life. The Word that saves. The Word that teaches love. The Word that unites and forgives.

As members of the Body of Christ and with the Gift of the Holy Spirit, we are all called to be Jesus’ witnesses or spiritual martyrs. Just as St. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirt, so are you! So ask yourself, Can I be a true witness who is ready to be a spiritual martyr for my faith? Can I die to self for Christ by my sacrifices and a generosity of life for others I encounter? Will I make my world a better place because of Christ’s Word? When we act in unison together with others who have the same beliefs, we are doing what Christ commands us and this solidarity can change your broken world. This is what the Lord wants to happen when you bring the Word courageously into your life situation. Disunity and evil can come tumbling down and your world and others will be changed because of the presence of God’s Word of love.

This is how Jesus challenges us today in the Scripture as we prepare for Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Like the Three Musketeers, we say, “All for one and one for all.” All for the name of Jesus and Jesus in all of us. “So that the world will believe that you sent me.”

The Eucharist is our nourishment and strength. The way in which “we are brought to perfection as one.” It is our food from Heaven that motivated the martyrs in their witness even to death and still moves us to witness for the Holy Name of Jesus and work to build up His Kingdom on earth. “Amen.” “Come Lord Jesus.”