7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER A (54th WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY)
FATHER, GLORIFY YOUR SON
My dear friends in Christ, today as we celebrate the seventh Sunday of Easter, we are called upon to reflect on the waiting of the Apostles for the fulfilment of the promise made by the Lord to send the Holy Spirit— the Spirit of truth— the counsellor, that will guide them into all truths. On this day as well we celebrate the World Communications Day. A day on which we are called upon to reflect on the command of Jesus to go out and preach the good news to all nations. How we communicate with the world of our time is greatly important as it affects how the Gospel message is passed on. This year marks the 54th edition of the celebration which started after the Second Vatican Council’s call for such in the document, Inter Mirifica. The theme of the Holy Father, Pope Francis’ reflection for today is, “That you may tell your children: Life becomes history.”
First reading (Acts 1:12-14)
Prompted by the words of the Angels at the Ascension of Jesus, the Apostles returned to Jerusalem and went into the Upper Room. This symbolises their expectation of a Divine visitation in the coming of the Spirit as promised by the Lord. The Evangelist gave the names of the eleven who were involved in the ascent to the Upper Room, it shows the bonding in the group. This group is composed of real people who are known to the followers. Their waiting consists of unanimous active and constant prayers by which they prepared themselves consciously and deliberately for the fulfilment of the promise. This was however not exclusively the Apostolic College in prayer. With them were Mary the Mother of the Lord, the women and the brethren. All were waiting and praying.
Second reading (1 Peter 4:13-16)
In this passage, Peter exhorts his readers not to be surprised by the persecutions that they may encounter in the cause of doing the will of God. He calls it having a share in the sufferings of Christ. To this end Peter calls on the Christians to rejoice in their suffering, if it be for bearing the name of Christ. We saw the example of this again and again in the Acts of the Apostles that the early Christians rejoiced for being counted worthy to have some share of suffering for the sake of the Gospel. For Peter, those persecuted for the sake of righteousness are blessed because the result is that they have the “spirit of glory” given to them. Peter says no one should be ashamed to suffer as a Christian for Christian principles, but no one should suffer for doing something wrong — “murderer, or a thief, or a wrong-doer or a mischief-maker.”
Gospel (John 17:1-11)
The background to this prayer, is the closing sequence of the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples which marks the arrival of the ‘Hour’ of Jesus—the moment of his passion, death and resurrection —His glorification, the manifestation of Jesus as the Only Son of God. The Evangelist tells us that Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven and then said “Father, the Hour has come; glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”
This prayer continues to reveal the intimate relationship between the Father and the Son. Jesus asks the Father to glorify the Son, the Son in turn will glorify the Father. All authority comes from the Father, yet this has been given to the Son. The Son is the Redeemer yet He Redeems those the Father has given to him. No one comes to the Father except through him and no one comes to Him except he has already been approved by the Father. The prayer reveals the origin of the Son as one who has been with the Father before the world was made and points to an eternal existence of the Trinity.
If the glory of the Son comes from the ‘hour’— the suffering, death and resurrection, we might again see why Peter wrote to the believers asking them to bear their own sufferings patiently as a share in the sufferings of Christ, since this will also lead to a share in the glory of the Lord.
Dear friends, the First Reading and the Gospel today remind us of the vital role of prayer in our lives as Christians. This prayer is not just that of the individual but more of the persevering and unified prayer of the early community in Jerusalem which is a pointer to the continuous openness of those who were involved to the coming of the Spirit promised by the Lord. But this also points to the fact that when the community prays, it is the Lord who prays in his body—the Church. He intercedes for His own continuously with the Father and the promised Spirit will keep them in one mind to pray fervently in the way He prays for them. The essence of the prayer of Jesus for the disciples is unity which the first reading tells us characterised their staying together and praying together with one accord. Where can we find that unity today? Jesus desires that we are able to live together, share what we have with one another and be able to approach the Father in one accord, in that case whatever we agree to ask for in his name becomes prayers answered.
Today’s celebration of World Communications Sunday must not pass-bye without a serious thought about what the Holy Father calls us to reflect on as he himself says:
“I would like to devote this year’s Message to the theme of storytelling, because I believe that, so as not to lose our bearings, we need to make our own the truth contained in good stories. Stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together. Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us. A narrative that can regard our world and its happenings with a tender gaze. A narrative that can tell us that we are part of a living and interconnected tapestry. A narrative that can reveal the interweaving of the threads which connect us to one another.” (Pope Francis, World Communications Day, 2020)
He states further:
“We may not even realize how greedy we have become for chatter and gossip, or how much violence and falsehood we are consuming. Often on communication platforms, instead of constructive stories which serve to strengthen social ties and the cultural fabric, we find destructive and provocative stories that wear down and break the fragile threads binding us together as a society. By patching together bits of unverified information, repeating banal and deceptively persuasive arguments, sending strident and hateful messages, we do not help to weave human history, but instead strip others of their dignity..”
The Holy Father encourages us, “In an age when falsification is increasingly sophisticated, reaching exponential levels (as in deepfake), we need wisdom to be able to welcome and create beautiful, true and good stories. We need courage to reject false and evil stories. We need patience and discernment to rediscover stories that help us not to lose the thread amid today’s many troubles. We need stories that reveal who we truly are, also in the untold heroism of everyday life.”
Let us pray with Pope Francis: O Mary, woman and mother, you wove the divine Word in your womb, you recounted by your life the magnificent works of God. Listen to our stories, hold them in your heart and make your own the stories that no one wants to hear. Teach us to recognize the good thread that runs through history. Look at the tangled knots in our life that paralyze our memory. By your gentle hands, every knot can be untied. Woman of the Spirit, mother of trust, inspire us too. Help us build stories of peace, stories that point to the future. And show us the way to live them together. Amen