Old Calendar: Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension
"I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they belong to you: all I have is yours and all you have is mine, and in them I am glorified. I am not in the world any longer, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you." (John 17:9-11)
The first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14 and describes our own situation as well as the situation of the early community. These men first gathered in the upper room for the Last Supper with Jesus and now gather together again to await the gift of his Holy Spirit. The same is true of the present Church for we gather at the Eucharist to proclaim the death of the Lord and we celebrate this Sunday in particular to await the coming of the Paraclete.The second reading is from the first letter of Peter 4:13-16 and enunciates the theme that suffering for the faith is to be part of the life of a believer. Just as Holy Week cannot be fully understood without constant attention to the event of Easter, so the glory and joy of the Easter season cannot be appreciated fully without bringing attention to the fact that the followers of Jesus must walk in trial and suffering as well.The Gospel is from St. John 17:1-11. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, came on earth and lived among us. He was God in real human nature. This is the mystery of the Incarnation, but the real mystery for us is not how it could be done, but why it was done. The answer is the mystery of God's infinite love for us. God wanted to share his own kingdom of everlasting happiness with mankind. He therefore raised us to the status of adopted sons through this mystery of the Incarnation.God could have found other ways of bringing us to heaven, we can suppose, but we can be sure he chose the best way. He had created us with human hearts and emotions; he had made us capable of reacting to love and benevolence. In Christ he set before us an example of love and benevolence which should trove the hardest heart to gratitude and to a desire to repay in some little way the God who did so much for our sakes. God wants us to earn heaven for ourselves, aided of course by his grace. Would we enjoy and appreciate it fully if we had played no part in attaining it? Now with Christ as our exemplar and model, and as a living, ever-present example of self-sacrifice for us, the carrying of our personal crosses, the ordinary difficulties of life, should seem almost trivial when compared with what he who was innocent and sinless endured for our sakes. He was born in a stable, grew up in poverty in Nazareth, was often hungry and thirsty, traveled the dusty and rough mule-tracks of Palestine preaching repentance to sinners and calling on all to love God. He was continually heckled by the leaders of the Jews who thought they knew God. They even accused him of being in league with the devil. They finally forced the pagan Roman governor, whom they hated, to crucify him because they hated Christ even more. For three hours he hung in agony on the cross until merciful death finally brought relief.This was all done for you and for me! He belonged to heaven. He need never have left it. He did not have to earn heaven. He went through all of this to give us the possibility of earning heaven for ourselves. Truly enough most of us have to suffer poverty, pains and sometimes great tribulations during our years on earth. But which of us can say that we are sinless, and if we could say it, that we may not have to thank these very trials and tribulations for keeping us so? Or if we have sinned we can see God in his mercy as using these earthly crosses in order to prepare us for the life of eternal happiness to come.Sinners or sinless, we are still followers of Christ, and that prayer of his for us at the Last Supper asking his Father "to give eternal life to all who are his" was not said in vain. Unless we deliberately desert him, he will not desert us. He will bring us to the Father, where we will add external glory to the Blessed Trinity, and rejoice forever in the company of Christ who shared our humanity with us so that we could share and enjoy his divinity and humanity in heaven for all eternity. — The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.