Reflections on the Readings for the 7th Sunday of Easter 2021
Acts of the Apostles 1:15-17, 20-26
As you can see from the reference to today’s reading we have returned to the opening chapter of the book of Acts. It is set, as we are today, in the days between the Ascension and Pentecost. A key feature of St Luke’s Gospel is the idea that the emerging church is the New Israel. Just as the original Israel had at its roots the Twelve Tribes, so this new community will have as its foundation twelve apostles and so a replacement needs to be found for Judas. A fundamental criterion for this substitute is, “someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling around with us…” It is clear from this statement that, from the beginning, the group of disciples who travelled around with Jesus was more than simply the Twelve Apostles.
1 John 4:11-16
You may remember that in the extracts both from this Letter, and from John’s Gospel that we have been listening to recently, the key words that are repeated, and repeated over and over again, are “love” and “live” (or “remain” or “abide” in other translations). Apparently between our two Readings from this Letter of last week and this in only eleven verses the word “love” occurs TWENTY-SEVEN TIMES! Fundamental to all of this is the fact that this love is not initiated by humans, the first move is always made by God. We are invited to respond to the love we have experienced, a love that is “living” in us always.
John 17: 11-19.
The words in our Gospel today are the bulk of what is often called “The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus” in the final section of his discourse at the Last Supper. Commending the disciples to the Father’s care he asks Him not to remove them from the world, “… but to protect them from the evil one.” Hans Kung once wrote something that very much resonates with this, “God does not protect us from suffering. God protects us in the midst of suffering.” The unfolding story of the Early Church in the Acts, and beyond, bears witness to this. There are all kinds of suffering to be endured by people in the Church, but we can and will prevail remembering God’s promise to us.
Jesus asks his Father to, “Consecrate them in the truth.” The word “consecrate” in Greek has as its root “hagios” (holy) and means “make/become holy”. Earlier in this discourse at the Last Supper Jesus had proclaimed himself, “The way, the TRUTH, and the life.” The next day he bears witness to the “truth” in front of Pontius Pilate who retorts, “Truth, what is that?” “Truth” is standing there in front of him, but he is unable to recognise Jesus in this way. Our call is to be “consecrated” in Jesus, “the Truth”, and our way into this is through the means available to us today: through Word and Sacrament.