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Seventh Sunday – Ascension A – Easter
Readings: Acts 1:12-14; 1 Pet 4:13-16; Jn 17:1-11a.
1/ Reading I: RSV Acts 1:12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away; 13 and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
2/ Reading II: RSV 1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; 16 yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God.
3/ Gospel: RSV John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, 2 since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. 4 I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; 5 and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made. 6 “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; 8 for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9 I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; 10 all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee.
I. THEME: What must we do to protect our faith?
Faith is the precious gift which God had instilled into our souls. It has potential to help us to reach our ultimate goal which is the beatific vision; but it can also be shaken and destroyed if we don’t practice what God teaches to keep our faith and to be firmed before so many temptations of our life.
Today readings provide us with many ways that God teaches us to be firmed in our faith and to be ready to be a witness for faith to people. In the first reading, the author of the Acts teaches us to things to do: First, we need to live together to support our faith because if one lives by himself, his faith shall be destroyed. Secondly, we must always pray to find out what is God’s will for us and to find our strength which comes from Him. In the second reading, the author of the First Letter of Peter advises us to be perservered in carrying of our cross daily to follow Christ. Suffering can’t be lacked for those who follow Christ; we shouldn’t pay attention to the sufferings, but to the glory which God shall give to us after we complete this life. In the Gospel, Jesus knows what will happen for his disciples after he is taken away from them: they shall be “sheep without a shepherd,” feared, hopeless, scattered… So, he prays to His Father to sanctify them in truth, to grant them all graces, to keep them from all worldly dangers, to keep their faith after passing through all sufferings.
1/ Reading I: Two things we must do to keep our faith.
1.1/ The apostles lived together to show their unity and to support each other: Jesus clearly knows their situation when He is no longer be with them, so He reminds them the words of the prophet Zechariah: “They shall strike the shepherd and his sheep shall be scattered” (Zec 13:7). In ordered for them not to be scattered, the apostles now need to live together to support each other spiritually. They shall not lack Jesus’ presence because He already promised them, “When there are two or three gather together in my name, there shall be my presence amongst them” (Mt 18:20). Moreover, Jesus also knows the day He shall not be with them physically, so He appointed Peter to be the leader to replace Him to guide the apostles and the whole Church (Mt 16:18-19). Peter has the duty to support the apostles’ faith because he denied Jesus three times and was helped by God’s grace to repent.
1.2/ The apostles pray regularly with Mary, Jesus’ mother and other Christians: Before the Passion, Jesus always reminds His apostles, “You must always pray in order not to be fallen and to stand firm before the Son of Man” because He knows, “The spirit is quick but the flesh is heavy.” Jesus Himself always prays, especially before all the important events of His life on earth, such as: the temptations in the desert before His public preaching, before His Passion in the Mt. Olive… While he was looking for the strength through His uniting with His Father, three times He returned to look for consolation from His disciples, three times He saw all of them sleeping soundly. Now, the apostles need to loof for God’s strength through praying because they know it is about time that they must go out to preach the Good News and to be Jesus’ witnesses before all sufferings which are waiting for them: threats and opposition from the Jewish leaders and the Roman government… They remember what Jesus has warned them, “Servants are not important than their master. If they treated the master as such, they also treat them like that.”
2/ Reading II: Need to differentiate between two kinds of suffering.
2.1/Suffering because we are shared in Christ’s suffering: Anyone who wants to follow Christ he needs to remember the conditions required by Him, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must give up himself, carry his cross daily and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Denying oneself isn’t easy to do because Christ requires us to give up our will to do His will. For examples: to sell all what one has and gives to the poor as Christ required from the young man who asked Him how to be perfected (Mt 19:21); or when Christ demands His disciples to leave their parents and belongings to work in His vineyard.
Suffering can come from people’s denying and persecuting when Christ’s disciples preach the Good News, or from misunderstanding and mistreating when they do good things for people. Jesus and Peter understood these things because they themselves were treated as such. Peter advised us, “If we share in Christ’s suffering, we also share in His glory of His resurrecting in heaven.”
2.2/Suffering as the result of wicked works: This is naturally come. For example: When one drives under the influence of alcohol and causes death to other, he must suffer by being put in a prison and his driver license is revoked. Or when a student can’t be graduated due to his laziness, not satisfying the conditions to be graduated.
The author also mentions suffering come from “to involve in other’s business.” Other’s business here can be understood as the matter that isn’t related to us. It needs not our involvement. An example can be used to clarify this. For example, slandering of other. If because of this, one must suffer confrontation in court; he is deserved because he violated justice and he must pay back the reputation which he damaged other.
3/ Gospel: Jesus prays for His disciples before His Passion.
3.1/ Jesus examines the Plan of Salvation which His Father gives Him to complete: As the wise leader who always takes control of all situations, Jesus examines what had happened, what is happening and shall happen.
(1) Looking up to the future: Though He knows His Passion is near, but He also knows when he is hung to the cross the plan of salvation is fulfilled. So, He looks up to heaven and prays: “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee.”
(2) The purpose of the Plan is to bring salvation to people: Jesus continues: “Since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” To know the Father and the Son is the necessary condition to inherit the eternal life. The verb “to know” in Hebrew is not only to know in theory, but also to do what God requires.
(3) To look back into the past: Jesus maked His disciples to know that He was sent by the Father. He says, “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; 8 for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me.”
Jesus knows He has fulfilled His tasks which are to reveal and to teach His disciples. Now, He has to overcome the last obstacles to complete God’s salvation plan which are to accept the way of the cross and to be hung on the cross.
3.2/ Jesus prays for His disciples: “I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine.” The disciples are the Father’s gifts to Jesus and Jesus is the Father’s precious gift to people. Christians are the common property of both the Father and the Son.
Like the sucessful student makes his teacher proud or the healed patient glorifies his doctor, Christians are the reason for Jesus to be glorified. Because of people, Jesus has an opportunity to obey the Father and to win people for the Father.
When living in the world, Jesus protected those the Father has given to Him. Now He has to say good bye to them, so He prays to the Father to protect them from all dangers of the world, “And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Faith is the condition for us to inherit the eternal life. God has given us this faith to us on the day we received Baptism. We need to do all possible ways to make this faith to grow and to keep this faith until the day we leave this world.
– To keep our faith, we must live with members of our family and community in order that we can remind and support each other’s faith. We must also pray often and to Mary so we can receive grace and strength from God to confront all the world’s temptations.
– Jesus doesn’t leave us orphans after He ascends to heaven. He always makes intercession for us before God; especially together with the Father give us the Holy Spirit to help us to fight and to win over all dangers of the world.