Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - May 16, 2021
On the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the prayers and scriptures of the Church present a kind of paradox with regard to our ongoing life in Christ. The Church prays that, even as the Savior of the human race has ascended and is now with God in glory, we might continue to experience Christ’s abiding presence among us until the end of the world.
For the past several Sundays, passages from the Gospel of John and the First Letter of John have encouraged us to remain in and with Jesus. Throughout the Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles have shown us how the community that came together around Jesus continued to grow in strength and identity following his death, resurrection, and ascension. Their faithfulness to the Lord relied on his ongoing presence with them and some points of the key elements of faithful discipleship, in both their time and in ours.
Once again, we appreciate that the foundation of our remaining and abiding in Jesus is the love God the Father and Jesus share with one and then the love that they share with us. The love they share with us compels and energizes our love for one another. As today’s Second Reading reminds us, “If God so loved us, we must love one another… If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.
Another quality of faithful discipleship and abiding in Jesus is prayer. The Gospel today portrays Jesus in the midst of his disciples praying for their sanctification. He calls forth God’s protection, the protection of God’s name, for “his own.” This protection is the continuation of the careful watch and shepherding that Jesus undertook while he was physically with his friends. They are “in the world” but do not belong to the world speaks to the early community’s experience of being rejected and isolated from the larger community they had earlier been a part of. Jesus prays for the protection of this small group of believers and consecrates them, asking God to make them holy in the truth, in the Word, and in himself.
The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles demonstrates the trust the early community had in being guided and watched over. Peter stood in the midst of the believers and invited them to propose candidates to replace Judas and restore the twelve apostles who represent the completeness of the restored people of God. The community then prayed for guidance and direction and, trusting in the ongoing presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, cast lots that fell upon Matthias. Trust in the ongoing presence of Jesus, even though it was no longer physical, guided and affirmed their actions and emboldened them to move forward.
Lastly, abiding in love and prayer with our Lord, we are consecrated for mission in the world. Our abiding in Jesus and the love we have received and share with one another must be visible to others. Loved, protected, and chosen by God, our response is visible in the way we share what we have received. Jesus prays for our consecration and sanctification in the truth and goes on to say to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” Having received the Word of God, we are now to serve as agents and instruments of God’s truth. The mission of Jesus, which was and is to show the presence and power of God in the world, continues in the persons of his disciples.
As we come to this final Sunday and Week of Easter, we are mindful of the ways the Risen Christ continues to accompany us and pray for us. Mindful also of His promise to send the Holy Spirit to us, we want to pray this week that God’s grace and love will continue to be brought to perfection in the Church and in us through the Holy Spirit, whose coming we will celebrate next week on Pentecost.