Seventh Sunday of Easter – Year A

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Joseph A. Genito, O.S.A. 
Church of St. Thomas of Villanova
Rosemont, Pennsylvania

Readings
Acts 1:12-14
Ps 27:1, 4, 7-8
1 Pt 4:13-16
Jn 17:1-11a

The reading from Acts describes the gathering of the community of believers in prayer. Jesus had just ascended into heaven, yet another aspect of their relationship with him that required thoughtful reflection and processing. Now they were truly on their own; his presence with them would henceforth be completely spiritual, a marked change in their experience of him. Now it’s up to them to implement what they learned from their teacher and to carry on his mission, the same mission which eventually led him to the Cross.

The ways of Jesus went contrary to the ways of the world. He repeatedly confronted exclusion, hatred, violence and vengeance. Every step of the way from here on would challenge the strength of their convictions. Learning from his example, they would often gather in prayer, as they did in this account from Acts.

Saint Augustine gave his followers the exhortation to “live as one in mind and heart on the way to God.” “On the way” reminds us that life is a pilgrimage, an ongoing journey to carry on what Jesus started, the “already but not yet” dimension of Christianity. Jesus introduced a new way of living and thinking that is now up to us to promote, to build upon, so that following his example we stand in contrast to the ways of the world and teach others, widening the circle and deepening the commitment. The early community was derisively called “Christian,” identified as followers of a man who had been executed as a criminal.

Bear this name proudly, exhorts the letter of Saint Peter, and give testimony to your belief in his ways, despite the contempt of the non-believers, those who mocked Christ on the cross. His ways stand in contrast to a world of self-absorption, violence and hatred. True Christians show mutual care and love for one other, as Christ loved us, persevering in the face of ridicule and scorn. To live as Christ lived is to pay attention to those marginalized by a self centered world, thus distinguishing us from their ways. Each and every time we stand up for our beliefs we make a difference in the world.

Just as Jesus initiated this way of dealing with the world, each time we adhere to his way of doing things we move it closer to achieving his ideal. Building on the good works of those who taught us and have gone before us, we then assume the mantle of teachers to the next generation who will carry on the same mission until the Kingdom will have indeed arrived. In the meantime, we live in the “now” which is far from the ideal, and necessitates the support of a community not only to strengthen us to persevere in going forward, but also to challenge and encourage us when we fall short.

The disciples found themselves with this mandate in their world after Jesus ascended. So too, it is our mission to do our part to move humanity closer to the fulfillment he promised.