Though my scripture reflection this week focuses on "the priestly prayer" of Jesus in Jn 17, I am aware that many churches will be using the readings from the
Feast of the Ascension
rather than from the Sixth Sunday of Easter. The two sets of texts, however, complement each other: with Jesus "lifted up," we remain on earth to complete his work of healing, forgiveness, the corporal works of mercy, the proclamation of The Good News... We can only do this if we "remain" in Him and He in us -- which takes us back to the priestly prayer. If we do not remain in Him, then we will find ourselves swayed by public opinion, influenced by our peers and driven by human perspective rather than God's perspective.
In any situation in which we find ourselves, in any issue of public debate (whether immigration, abortion, the death penalty, climate change etc.) we need to examine what God requires of us: "
What does the LORD require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Mic. 6:8
This is the litmus test of Christian commitment: if anyone claims to speak for God, measure that person's words and actions by this requirement and then you will know whether he or she is working with or against the Spirit of God!
PS. I'm afraid I have to discontinue
Sunday Video Chat
for the moment as my schedule has become increasingly demanding. However, it may surface every now and again as the Spirit moves and as time permits! Thanks for understanding!
"I pray not only for them,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Modern life does not encourage "We" thinking; on the contrary, it tends to make us into self-serving isolationists who are into self-help, self-branding and self-promotion. If our primal ancestors thought in terms of "We," if the spiritual quest encouraged the development of the "I," then our present era -- at least in the west-- is the age of "Me, Me, Me." Gone is the age of altruism, and, with it, the sense of sharing a common humanity with our brothers and sisters across the globe. Instead, we are living in a technological world that is "plugged in" to immediate communication with facts, figures and entertainment, but offers little "soul connection" with others. We commune with our cell phones but lack social skills such as saying "Good morning!" to a neighbor in the elevator or thanking someone who has helped us in some way. Far from being at one with each other and with God, we are probably the loneliest generations --the plural is deliberate here-- that have ever lived. Those born before the 1980's may still remember the way things were and may even have maintained the relatively stress-free "unplugged" lifestyle to which they were accustomed. Most of us, however, have had to "adapt or perish," not only learning to multi-task, but also how to manage a complex web of social media platforms and mobile apps, just to function socially and professionally.
JESUS' PRIESTLY PRAYER
"Unity" is the hallmark of spiritual life, especially in the Christian tradition; it demands that we live in inter-connectedness with all living beings, including the Source of all Being. On a human level, the truly spiritual person sees no distinction between "I" and "thou" (with a small "t") and, like John Donne, the C17th English poet and cleric, knows that when the bell tolls, it tolls not just for some anonymous victim of the plague (or of war, or gun violence, or domestic violence, or illness, or suicide....) but for everyone:
"Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee."
In terms of relationship with God, the truly spiritual person also understands that
“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love"
Unity with God, then, means aligning our vision with God's and placing God's agenda before our own; we find our "true self" in the Divine Self, our fulfillment in the in-dwelling Christ.
At the Last Supper, aware that his "hour has come," Jesus prays for his disciples and for those who will come to believe through their testimony, that all may be one as he is with his Father. This vision of unity is not based on mere intellectual knowledge but on the life-changing experience of receiving and giving God's free-flowing Love while dwelling in that Love. This profoundly intimate "knowing" of God is "eternal life" (Jn 17:3). In this knowing, we experience ourselves as " God's beloved" and, in turn, know that God alone is our true Beloved.
When we experience this "at-one-ment" with God, we understand that we are nothing and can accomplish nothing without God. True, we may use our intellects and creative abilities to generate some amazing project or masterpiece, but the work that endures and which ultimately transforms the world is "God's work," rather than our own. It is human arrogance to imagine we can accomplish anything without God or that we ourselves are the geniuses behind our achievements. "Brilliance" is no substitute for Divine Inspiration; it doesn't change hearts, comfort the afflicted or facilitate a human-divine encounter. Raw talent may go a long way, but "
If God does not build the house/in vain have the builders labored
" (Ps 127:1).
In Jn 15:5, we find the same message:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
To reach our full human destiny and potential, then, we need to let go of our egos and acknowledge God as the source of all that we are and of all that we have. Surrendering in gratitude to God's Will for us (Will=Love), we come to realize that life is not "about us" but about God's action in us and through us; what is primary is "being in God" which, ultimately, is what we -- and God-- desire the most.