Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sunday of the Seventh Week of Easter A

“St Peter in Penitence” by El Greco, 1580s
Readings for the Seventh Week of Easter [1][2]

Readings and Commentary: [3]

Reading 1: Acts 1:12-14

After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles
returned to Jerusalem
from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem,
a sabbath day’s journey away.

When they entered the city
they went to the upper room where they were staying,
Peter and John and James and Andrew,
Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew,
James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot,
and Judas son of James.
All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer,
together with some women,
and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Commentary on Acts 1:12-14

This passage provides part of the introductory comments of St. Luke as he begins the Acts of the Apostles. Like any well written story, he connects the events that have just taken place in his first volume- The Gospel of Luke, with what will follow. In the first verses Jesus ascended and told them to expect the gift of the Holy Spirit – in this selection the disciples with Mary the Mother of Jesus and his extended family return to Jerusalem and enter the locked room. Important to recognize is the presence not just of the apostles but of Mary, ever faithful to her son.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-8

R. (13) I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
R. Alleluia.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The Lord is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
R. Alleluia.

One thing I ask of the Lord;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord
and contemplate his temple.
R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
R. Alleluia.

Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
R. Alleluia.
Commentary on Ps 27:1, 4, 7-8

Psalm 27 is a hymn of praise with two distinct parts. This passage focuses on the singers hope in the mercy of God and his salvation.  Pleading for God’s salvation the psalmist seeks his saving hand.
Reading II: 1 Peter 4:13-16

Rejoice to the extent that you share in the
sufferings of Christ,
so that when his glory is revealed
you may also rejoice exultantly.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
But let no one among you be made to suffer
as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer.
But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed
but glorify God because of the name.
Commentary on 1 Pt 4:13-16

The Apostle speaks clearly of persecution experienced in the infant church.  Many scholars believe he is referring to actual events rather than making a prophetic statement.  He asks the faithful to rejoice in being so blessed as to share in Christ’s sufferings since they are shouldering the mission of Christ by doing so and in that work they give glory to the Father.
Gospel: John 17:1-11a

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said,
“Father, the hour has come.
Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people,
so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.
Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
I glorified you on earth
by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.
Now glorify me, Father, with you,
with the glory that I had with you before the world began.

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.
They belonged to you, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours
and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
And now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.
Commentary on Jn 17:1-11a

Raising his eyes to heaven, Jesus begins what is known as the “High Priestly Prayer.”  In this first section, the Lord begins a petition for the disciples (those he has now and those to come) speaking directly to the Father (not to the disciples, they are just overhearing this prayer). The emphasis is clearly that the disciples have become what the Lord wanted, faithful believers, and he asks the Father to support them. He intercedes for those who were given to him by the Father (“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.” the Apostles and their followers). The Lord singles out the faithful for the Father’s special care, asking that they be glorified with him as he departs the world.


The Easter season draws to a close and the Church begins to look forward to its mission.  The Lord leaves us both his Holy Spirit and his blessing in the High Priestly Prayer initiated in the Gospel from St. John.  We hear in his passionate words how much he loves us, asking his Heavenly Father to care for those whom he has called and who remain faithful to his word and work.

St. Peter was there hearing these words and it was because of this that in his later ministry we hear him enjoining the early Christians to, not only accept the persecution they received because of their identity as followers of Christ, but to rejoice because in their suffering the Lord’s work still goes on to the Father’s Glory.  Their suffering should be a source of consolation.  Indeed the mission the Lord leaves us is not one loved by the world.  It was not loved when Jesus walked the earth, it was not loved when the early Church struggled to spread the Gospel message, and it is not loved today.

The Lord’s death and resurrection were the starting point not the conclusion of Christ’s life with his people.  He did not leave the Holy Spirit as a caretaker, he left it as a goad, as an encouragement and strength so that God’s revelation might be continued through those God had given him and those the Triune God continues to give.

As our season of joy comes to a close in the last week of Easter, we leave you with a wise saying that should be a great solace to all who suffer for the mission of Chirst – “You cannot wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.”


In other years on this date: Optional Memorial for Saint Justin, Martyr

[2] The picture is “St Peter in Penitence” by El Greco, 1580s
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

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