Seventh Sunday of Easter – Year B

Aldo Potencio, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26
Psalm 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20
1 John 4:11-16
John 17:11b-19

A person of faith is a person who prays. Prayer is an important part of our lives, as people of faith. St. Augustine said that “we ought to pray to increase our desire for God, so that we might be able to receive what he is preparing to give us.” Prayer is a source of strength. And prayer is a source of connection to the Divine.

But in some sense, prayer is also a source of connection to others in our midst. We find comfort in the prayers offered for our sake by those in our community, especially during our time of need. Praying for each other expresses something that is central to who we are. It is a recognition of God and who God is for us. And it is also a recognition of others as our companions in this journey of faith. Prayer for one another is an expression of care for the wellbeing of each other.

And it is in this spirit that we find comfort that (at least as shown in the gospel of John) the last action of Jesus before he was arrested was to pray for his people. “Holy Father, keep them so that they may be one. Keep them from the evil one. Consecrate them in the truth.” At the moment when Jesus was preparing for his own passion, he was not unaware of the needs of his disciples and the tribulation that they would face without him. He asked the Father to protect them so that they would not be lost.

Jesus’ prayer gave us a concrete image of what it means to be lost, which is division instead of unity. To be lost means being separated from one another and the Body of Christ. As Jesus said earlier: “Keep them so that they may be one.” Unity is a gift of God for us, but it is also a mission that we are to undertake.

It was given to the disciples, and many struggled with it. It is given to us now, and we are still struggling with it.

The disciples of Christ now continue to experience tribulation that pulls each of us apart from each other. Human standards of race, education, wealth, gender, etc. are still being used as weapons of division. Our differences are being used to perpetuate hate and lies, which demean our human dignity. It is so easy to be blinded from the truth that our differences highlight the love and mercy of God who calls each one, no matter who they are.

St. Augustine once said: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” In our differences, and in our uniqueness, God offers his love. And this love, becomes the bond of our unity.

Tribulation and challenges in life can lead to hate and division, but we remember that God’s love binds us into one. This our truth, that God offers us his love because God is love. “Holy Father, consecrate them in your truth.” It is easy to take for granted this truth of God’s love for us. But Christ continues to pray that we may bask in this truth, and learn within our hearts about this truth. Because it is in the truth of God’s love that we are to go into the world and proclaim to everyone the message of unity in God. As Jesus said: “I sent them into the world.”

To carry out this mission of Christ is not so easy nowadays because there is fear hiding in the hearts of many of us. There is fear when we have to speak truth to power – false power that propagates a false sense of identity and unity. It is false when the source of that identity and unity causes the exploitation and exclusion of some.

“Consecrate them to the truth.” And that truth is God alone, who in his love, opens his arms to each one of us.