This Sunday’s readings, like many during the Easter season, can be slightly confusing with regards to the order of events. It’s simple to understand, however, if it is briefly explained. The Gospel is what happens earliest. It takes place during the Last Supper discourse in the Gospel of John before Jesus is crucified. Then, we see Jesus’ words in the Gospel being fulfilled in our First Reading in the book of the Acts of the Apostles right after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. Our Second Reading is an exhortation to us from St Peter that also springs forth from the words he heard from Jesus on that night during our Gospel. Let’s look at the Gospel first, then.
The entire Gospel Reading is a prayer of Jesus addressed to the Father. He first prays that He may give eternal life “to all those you [the Father] have entrusted to” ‘me.’ “And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” In the Scriptures, the Bible, to “know” has deeper meanings than we understand this verb to have in our English language. In the Bible, you truly come to “know” someone, normally God (cf. Jeremiah 31:34), when you have become one with them; it is only then that you truly “know” them — by covenant. Just like a husband and a wife, too. They truly “know” each other in a way that no other can know them. But how do we come to know Jesus and our Father in this way? Through the Sacraments. This is where we truly become one with the Holy Trinity, through Christ our Lord, in the New Covenant.
In our First Reading, the Apostles, together with the rest of the disciples and “together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus,” gathered together in the upper room where they had listened to Jesus speak the words of our Gospel to them. They are gathered there only a few days after Jesus has left them and ascended into heaven. But, our Gospel Acclamation this Sunday tells us something very important that those gathered together already knew: “Alleluia, alleluia! I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord; I will come back to you, and your hearts will be full of joy. Alleluia!” (cf. John 14:8). The Lord will “return” to them in three ways. First, in the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of Christ (cf. Philippians 1:19-20), which they most immediately awaited. Second, in the Breaking of the Bread — The Mass — where Jesus will come to them again and again. Third, in the Second Coming of Christ when He “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven,” (Acts 1:11), at the end of time.
In our Second Reading, from the first letter of St Peter, he warns us that we will suffer for being Christians (a term that is only mentioned in two other places in the New Testament: cf. Acts 11:16 & 26:28). But he exhorts us to be glad for it! “None of you should ever deserve to suffer for being a murderer, a thief, a criminal or an informer; but if anyone of you should suffer for being a Christian, then he is not to be ashamed of it; he should thank God that he has been called one.” These are consoling words. It is by our suffering that our faith is tested; that we have the opportunity to show God, and others, the love that we have for Him.
The first place that we show Him our love, however, is this Sunday at Mass where we receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus for our spiritual nourishment and strengthening so that we may endure the times of suffering. And then, strengthened and divinised by this spiritual food and having proven our love of Him through our suffering, we shall surely one day “see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.”
“Alleluia, alleluia! I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord; I will come back to you, and your hearts will be full of joy. Alleluia!”
See you next week on Seeking the Word!
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