7th Sunday of Easter, Year B. Bible Study: Acts 1:15-26, Psalm 103, 1st John 4:11-16 and John 17:11-19
“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:11)
Last Sunday, we learnt that for us to bear fruits as branches connected to Jesus, the vine, we must show love to everyone regardless of race, colour, or religion. As Peter welcomed Cornelius and his household to the faith, God expects us to bear fruits, that is, win souls and convert hearts to Him through love.
In last Sunday’s Second Reading, St. John showed us that anyone who hates (or looks down) on his fellow human beings does not know God. Even in today’s Second Reading St. John re-echoes this message: “Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us… God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God.” (1 John 4:11-12,16).
If it were possible to summarize the words of Jesus in last Sunday's Gospel passage, it would be John 15:12 which reads: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus wants us to continue His mission of saving the world by replicating His sacrificial love, especially for our enemies. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus prays for us. In this prayer, Jesus expresses His desires for the Church and also reveals our identity and mission further. This brings us to our lessons for today:
1. United we stand, divided we fall.If you want to conquer any group, be it as small as a family or as large as a country, the fastest way to bring them down is to cause division among them. Once they start fighting themselves, they become powerless. Brothers and sisters who ate from the same plate will be willing to kill each other. Even Christians who never miss Church will begin to divulge the secrets of their fellow Christians to the enemies of the faith. This is how dangerous disunity can be.
Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve chosen by Jesus. He was loved by all. He was even in charge of the money box meaning that Jesus trusted him. However, when he heard that the Jewish authorities were willing to pay anyone with useful information to help them arrest Jesus, Judas decided to pitch camp with those who wanted Jesus dead. Despite his closeness to Jesus, (as one who could kiss Jesus in the face), Judas was more loyal to his pocket than to the unity of the group.
During the Last Supper, Jesus gave Judas an opportunity to retrace his steps by publicly revealing that one of them was about to betray Him but Judas remained adamant. A person who can afford to eat from the same plate with you (praise you in your presence with all the sweet talk) only to turn around and stab you in the back is dangerous. In his prayer, Jesus referred to Judas Iscariot as the “son of perdition.”
Dear friends, let us examine our hearts? Would I rather align with an unbeliever to destroy my fellow Christian? If I hear something bad being said about my fellow parishioner or colleague, would I add salt to pepper or assist in destroying him or her? Look around you and ask, how strong is my love for these persons I see sitting around me in church right now? Do I treat them like my own blood brothers and sisters? In the Lord’s Prayer, we refer to God as “Our Father” but in action, we hardly behave like we are brothers and sisters. This is a shame.
2. Be Prayerful: No one knows ‘Who is Who’
The action of Judas was a great shock to the Apostles. They never imagined that one of them would do such a thing. This is why when they were about to elect someone to take his place, they prayed that God who alone can see the heart of everyone would show them the right person to choose. (Acts 1:24). The apostles knew that it was possible to elect someone only to realize that he was only pretending. In truth, only God can see what is in the mind of others. On our part, we have to be very careful and prayerful.
3. We Do Not Belong To This World.
In his prayer, Jesus said: “The world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:14-15). This statement is quite deep – one, the world hates us, two, the world hates us because we do not belong to it, and three, as long as we live in this world, there is an “evil one” that we have to contend with. It is safe to say that the life of any Christian is a battle. We just cannot settle because we are not yet home.
In the words of St. Paul, we are wrestling against flesh and blood “but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). If the world hated Jesus Christ, we cannot expect the world to love us. The crises of Christianity today is that we are trying to serve two masters; we are trying to make the world love us by all means even if it means by dropping our values, denying our faith, and going by worldly standards.
In Romans 12:1-2, St. Paul warns: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” No matter how hard we try, we can never earn the love of the world.
Rather than pray for the world to love us, Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified in the truth. Being truthful is one characteristic that distinguishes us from the rest of the world. One who is worldly-minded finds it very difficult, to tell the truth but a Christian would prefer to die (because this world is not our own) than to tell a lie. What is the point of living a long life on earth only to end up in hell for eternity? Whether you like it or not, you will still die so why not just say the truth and let God do the rest?
4. The message of the Holy Father for 55th World Day of Communication.
Today, the Church is celebrating world day of communication and the theme of this year’s celebration is “Come and See.” Pope Francis taking the analogy of Jesus (in John 1:39) who told the disciples of John the Baptist to “come and see” when they asked where He was staying, encourages all media communicators (newsmen/women, journalists, bloggers, social media users, etc.) to develop the spirit of hitting the road, putting their feet down, and going to see things for themselves before reporting. In other words, we cannot afford to be removed from the news we intend to disseminate to others.
For Pope Francis, we can be effective evangelizers if like Philip, we are able to say to the Nathanael we meet every day, “Come and see.” (John 1:46). Christianity is not something abstract in the air, it is a lived experience. It is easy to quote the Bible for a person from Genesis to Revelation but what would convert that person is when he or she finds a community of real human beings who show practical love to each other.
Pope Francis also spoke about the issue of how it has become so easy to spread false information through social media. Gone are the days when you see things on your social media pages and begin to start sharing. There is too much fake news, too many misleading information and as such, we must fight falsehood by becoming champions of the truth. We must be responsible in our use of social media.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, make me an agent of unity, love and holiness in your church. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.