Sunday Sermon for May 21, 2023, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 1:12-14; 1Pet 4:13-16; Jn 17:1-11a
In the Gospel reading we have what might be one of the greatest consolations we could ever receive: Jesus prayed for us. We know that He is in Heaven interceding for us, but to know that while He was on earth He actually prayed for us. He prayed: “I do not pray for the world, but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours…” Think about this: not only did Jesus pray for you, but He said that you are the Father’s!
What comes next is also amazing to consider, and it might even make us wonder: Jesus says He has been glorified in you and me. How is this even possible? If we think back to the original context of the prayer, Jesus is speaking about the Apostles. At the time of the prayer, the Apostles were still arguing with each other about who was the greatest, they generally did not understand our Lord’s preaching, and they were pretty clueless about what was happening. They had remained faithful to our Lord for three years, but within a very short time they would deny Him, run away when He was arrested, and lock themselves away because of fear.
This does not sound like our Lord was glorified in them. But in reality, they had been formed by our Lord to bring them to the point where they were at the Last Supper with Him. He had tried to prepare them for His death and resurrection, but they were incapable of grasping His teaching. Therefore, the only way they could be formed into the Apostles our Lord would send into the world was to allow them to go through the Passion with Him so they could experience the power of the resurrection. This would change their lives and the Lord would be truly glorified in all of them.
One of the things they clearly learned from our Lord’s words and example is the necessity of prayer. We saw that a few weeks ago when the first deacons we made. The Apostles wanted to dedicate themselves to prayer and preaching. Today we see another aspect of this where the eleven “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
The natural tendency, once our Lord was not with them physically, was to draw near to our Blessed Lady and learn from her. Who better to teach them than the one who had been perfectly faithful to our Lord? To this day, and forever, our Blessed Mother is and will be the only disciple of our Lord who was always faithful to Him. The natural inclination of the Apostles to draw near to her must be our inclination as well.
The prayer of the Apostles began for form them more and more to be like our Lord. Jesus had taught them, as we read in today’s Gospel, that eternal life is knowing the One True God and Jesus Christ Whom He had sent. There is only one way to know Jesus, and that is through prayer. All the books, homilies, movies, etc. can teach us about Jesus, but they do not put us into a relationship with Him. Our Lady certainly would have taught the Apostles many things they could understand only after the death and resurrection of our Lord, but most importantly, she taught them to know and love her Son.
The nature of this kind of knowledge and love is to conform the individual more and more to the person who is known and loved. Through this conformity to our Lord, the Apostles were then able to understand and even embrace what they had tried assiduously to avoid: the suffering of our Lord. In the Gospel today, Jesus stated that the hour had come it was now time for God to give glory to His Son. That glory was not in the Ascension and glorification of our Lord in Heaven; it was the Passion and death He was to undergo for our salvation.
If this is the glorification of Jesus on earth, then those who are conformed to Him should recognize that when they are united to the sufferings of Jesus, they are being glorified by God and Jesus is being glorified within them. Of course, if the sufferings are accepted and offer, these souls are glorifying God as well. Did the Apostles understand this? A quick look at the second reading today shows us the fruit of our Lord’s prayer.
St. Peter not only tells us to rejoice to the extent that we share in the suffering of Christ, but he says the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us and we are to glorify God because of the Name. They got it, do we?
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.