7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, B WAITING IN HOPE

“I am not asking You to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one.”

The 7th Sunday of Easter occurs between the Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday. I would have preferred to nick-name this Sunday “The Waiting Sunday” because of the timing of its occurrence. Jesus, on Ascension Thursday was taken up to heaven before His disciples, who were left in wonder and amazement gazing into the sky. Before then, Jesus had promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would guide them to fullness of truth (John 16:13). Today, four days after the Ascension and the promise, the disciples are still waiting. One can only imagine how long this waiting would have seem for them; the dilemmas playing in their minds, the mental juggle between faith and doubt; hope and despair; anticipation and anxiety. Yet they had to wait in obedience to the command for the fulfilment of the promise: Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the fulfilment of the Father’s promise about which I have spoken to you … (Acts 1: 4). Our lives as Christians or in deed the Christian life is a life of one long wait; not strictly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but for the Second Coming of Him, Who died and rose again, Who ascended to the Father and promised to send the Holy Spirit upon us and His Church – Jesus Christ, the Just and Merciful Judge. So how are we to wait? The disciples have presented to us a model of active waiting. In the Upper Room, they waited actively as presented in the Gospel.

In the Gospel Reading (John 17: 11-19) the disciples waited in contemplation of the “Prayer of Jesus” over them in the same Upper Room at the Last Supper. This was their focal point; the main thrust of their hope and source of strength. This prayer reminded them of four critical areas that were very resourceful for revitalisation of their spirit of perseverance.

The “Prayer of Jesus” reminded them of the protection Jesus offered. He who was the Good Shepherd never left them unguarded. These words of Jesus must have resounded in their minds as they waited: While I was with them, I kept those You had given Me true to Your name. I have watched over them and not one of them is lost except the one who chose to be lost, and this was to fulfill the scriptures (John 17: 12). This is a model for us, who may be in desperate and fearful situations of life. We need to remind ourselves of God’s protection over us, knowing that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews13: 8). There is always a reason to recall the love and protection of God in the past to strengthen our confidence in the present. 

The “Prayer of Jesus” reminded them of the fullness of joy they experienced in the presence of Jesus as He revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them. At this time, they had to stir that same joy in their hearts as an irrevocable assurance of the continued presence of Christ in their midst. They needed to treasure that joy if they were to remain steadfast to the end and accomplish the enormous task that lay ahead. The Book of Psalms tells us: In the presence of God there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16: 11).  When all hope seems to be lost and gone, it is the joy we draw from the awareness of Christ’s closeness and presence to us in the midst of that darkness that keeps us going.

They remembered that Jesus did not pray that they should be taken away from the world because the world hated them but that God the Father should protect them from the evil one in the world. They were aware of the hatred that would come because their ways and values were to be different from those of the world. They knew that the road would not be a glide; that Jesus did not promise a smooth sail but He certainly promised a safe landing. In John’s Gospel (14: 33) Jesus says: In the world you will have suffering. But take courage! I have overcome the world. Every Christian must know that this is the reality of our faith in Jesus: that we are not excluded us from the hatred, persecution and discrimination of the world, in fact, if anything, we are rather it exposed to them by the virtue of our faith. A true Christian is a soldier on the frontline of both physical and spiritual combat against powers and principalities of this world (Ephesians 6: 12). Our confidence and courage are founded on the “Prayer of Jesus” that we will not be conquered by them.

The “Prayer of Jesus” reminded the disciples, in their moment of desolation, that they had been “consecrated” and sent out into the world. To be “consecrated” here means to be “set apart for a special task.”  By this it means they were called to be holy and different from others in order to carry out the special task to witnessing to the world about the Risen Lord. Those called to serve God must have something of God in them; to serve God, who is holy: those called must themselves be holy. God does not set men/women apart to serve Him without equipping them with the necessary qualities and grace to carry out the tasks. Christian life is not a life on a lonely lane – God walks with us. It is not a life of merit – His grace provides for us.

Each of us is called as the disciples were to walk this tumultuous road in fear and trembling knowing with utmost certainty that He who called us will never leave us prey to our enemies. He will surely us send the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Advocate, Who will guide us and teach all that we need to know as well as remind us all that He has taught us (John 14: 26). Let us prepare for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as promised by our Risen and Ascended Lord.