"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

7th SUNDAY OF EASTER (A) May 24, 2020

Acts 1: 12-14; Psalm 27; I Peter 4: 13-16; John 17: 1-11

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE:

In some dioceses the Ascension is celebrated today. For a reflection on the Ascension go to our webpage: http://preacherexchange.com and then to "First Impressions," where you will find a link to the "Ascension of the Lord."


Death seems to have taken center-stage these days. So many have died because of this pandemic! I am reminded of a friend whose father died before the virus took hold. These days one might call his death an "ordinary one" – not that there is anything "ordinary" about death, for the person, or for their loved ones. Still, the father’s passing happened in a way many of us have experienced before the virus.

My friend’s father very good man, an affectionate husband and father and a hard-working provider for his family. He had been gravely ill for a while and my friend thought he was hanging on because he was worried about his family, especially his frail wife. Would she be cared for after his death? My friend thought his father needed permission and assurance to let go and so, alone with his father one night, he told him, "It’s ok dad, we will take care of mom, you can go home now." The next morning his father died.

Sometimes dying people need permission and encouragement to let go. Some cling to life out of fear of what lies ahead. Others, looking at loved ones gathered around them, are reluctant to leave those they love. Sometimes, as my friend thought about his dad, they have concern for the well-being of a loved one. Who will take care of them after the death of the caretaker, or spouse?

The bonds of love we have join us with unbreakable ties to those we love. We believe that while changed, that love lasts beyond the grave. We pray for our deceased and trust they do the same for us. How could they not, since love lasts and it such a powerful virtue? We know too that blood ties are not all that unite us. Such ties also exist between friends, teachers and students, religious guides and disciples, etc.

The founder of our Order, St. Dominic, told those gathered around his bedside as he lay dying, not to grieve, he was going to a place where he could do even more for them in God’s presence. Today’s gospel has that kind of sound to it; of last moments and last words. Jesus is not on his death bed, but death is not very far away. His concern is not for himself, but for those seated around the table with him. It is an intimate and solemn moment as he prays to God... and we are privileged to listen in.

He prays, "Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you...." What can be so "glorious" about the death of this good man Jesus? What is there to stand up and cheer about? Maybe, because in his death, people will see how much he trusted God. He remained faithful, even through his pain and death. That’s something to cheer about. Glory to God!

In his death people will also see how much God loved him, stood by him and strengthened him. It’s a promise to us: God loves us too and is with us in pain and disappointment. That’s something to cheer about! Glory to God! After his death, God didn’t abandon Jesus in his grave, but raised him to new life. A promise to us too: God does not desert us in our death, but raises us to new life. God raises us to new life even out of the smaller deaths we experience in this life, that many are having right now – the disappointments, closures, failures, fears, etc. That’s something to cheer about! Glory to God!

Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper was fulfilled. God’s glory shone through Jesus. God proved faithful, constant and strong in Jesus’ suffering and dying. Who else but God could bring such victory out of complete defeat and death? If God could conquer death then there is no one who need be without hope. There is no situation or place out of God’s reach; no person who is so lost that God can’t bring life to them. That’s something to cheer about! Glory to God!

Most victories and moments of glory in life are temporary. The Nationals won the World Series last year on October 30. Their fans cheered and the celebration went on for days. That was last year’s glory. This year, because of the pandemic, that glory is forgotten. There is nothing to cheer about and the baseball season might not even happen. If it does, we are told it will be in a seriously reduced way. Where will the "glory" be for a team that wins a game in an empty stadium? Thus passes the glory of the world! What’s "glorious" about God, we learn through Jesus, is that God stands with us even in defeat and promises us new life. God can help us begin again when all seems impossible. There’s a word to describe it all, that sums up God’s glory, it’s "Resurrection."

We celebrate resurrection, not only on Easter, or these weeks right after the feast, but each time we come together here for worship. We celebrate what the angel Gabriel said to Mary, "Nothing is impossible for God."

It’s hard to cling to hope sometimes: when, by all measurable means, things are cracking at the seams; when human logic tempts us to give up and urges us, "Forget about it"; when we have to stick with a difficult task and we are not sure we can. We need what gave Jesus strength, hope and confidence in God. In a word... we need the Holy Spirit. Jesus made a promise to his disciples at the Last Supper that he would not leave us orphans, struggling on our own, but that he would send us the Spirit. It is a promise he kept.

Next week we will celebrate the coming of that Spirit. Pentecost isn’t just one among many church feasts. It is the feast when we celebrate the glory of God: our God, who doesn’t let us down; who doesn’t abandon us in rough times and who, when we feel dead, gives us new life.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://cms.usccb.org/bible/readings/052420-day.cfm