ACTS1:12-14/ PS.27/ 1PET.4:13-16/ JOHN 17:1-11
There are three homily notes for our prayers and meditations. Scroll down and read.
WAITING IN PRAYER AND HOPE
Rev. Fr. Paul K. Oredipe
This Sunday (7th of Easter) is between the solemnity of Ascension and Pentecost. We are in a period of waiting.
As we heard in the First Reading, the eleven apostles with other followers of Jesus, all joined together in waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. They gathered into one community thereby making up the basic community of the Church. They all came together because of the word of God in Jesus.
Waiting on the Spirit is not their own idea; rather they waited on the basis of the promise of Jesus. They are a community gathered around that promise, and their presence affirms the hope of each person there. They are not just passing the time. They are expectant that something new will happen in them, and they are attentive to the present moment through prayer. Their waiting was in obedience to the instruction of Jesus on his ascension.
As St. Luke recorded it: “When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said, ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1) They were waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus. Their waiting was to let the word of God happen in their lives – let it be.
Like Mary at the annunciation – ‘let it be done to me according to your word’. They have a deep conviction that the word will happen where they are, not somewhere else. And they waited together because together is the place where the Spirit comes. That period of waiting – nine days – is the oldest and most important novena in the Church. Unfortunately, it is also the most neglected. But thanks to be God we are trying to restore it again.
Such waiting, however was not in vain. They waited in prayer, in continuous prayer. It is not therefore surprising that we have in the Gospel of today, the conclusion of Jesus’ “high priestly” prayer to the Father at the Last Supper, a prayer for the apostles and all who follow them. This prayer is also called ‘prayer of consecration’ because Jesus consecrates himself for his approaching redemptive death.
This priestly prayer that Jesus uttered at the close of the Last Supper and which is recorded in chapter 17 of the Gospel of John has three parts: Jesus first prays for himself as He terminates his mission; then for his Apostles who are to continue his mission; and finally for all men to receive the benefits of this mission.
What is striking about this prayer of Jesus before His death was not just His trust in His Father, but also His trust in His disciples. Jesus did not dwell on past glories. He looks at those who pray with him: a weak and motley little group. But Jesus believes that these eleven really do belong to the Father, and that through these ‘earthen vessels’ his work will carry on.
Jesus prays for His disciples because He believes ‘the best is yet to be’. Jesus prays to God, His and our Father, and He wants us to share His prayer. He prays for his disciples, who are to remain in the world in order to complete the mission that the Father has given Him and He, in turn, has entrusted to them. Jesus acknowledges that all He has done is the work of the Father in Him. He also reveals that the future faithfulness and mission of the disciples will depend upon the continuing gift of the Father.
Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles sets the scene for Pentecost Sunday, the Solemnity we will celebrate next week. The eleven disciples are gathered in the Upper Room, the place where they receive the Eucharist and where Jesus first appeared to them when He rose from the dead. This is the group who would receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. This is the group who would unlock the door of the Upper Room, go before the people who had demanded Jesus’ death, and proclaim that Jesus is Lord. This small group of insignificant individuals would light a fire that would spread throughout the world. They were able to do this because they received the Holy Spirit and were faithful to the Holy Spirit.
You see, prayer is about not giving up on yourself or on God. The prayer Jesus prayed was prayed at a time when giving up would have been easy. Jesus prayed his prayer between dinner and death. Between having dinner with his disciples (one of whom would deny him, all of whom would desert him, and one of whom would do him in) and dealing with the political realities that would lead to his death, Jesus prayed. But He did not pray for a way out. He prayed for a way forward.
He prayed first that, in what was happening to him, God would be glorified. We pray like that when we pray like him: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …” “Holy and glorified is your name.” He told us to pray that first. “In all the rest of the stuff I’ve got to talk to you about, God, may there be some glory in all this for you.” That’s what we have to remember when we pray: God’s glory – not ours.
Then He prayed for his disciples, for those he loved: the men who had left all their business pursuits and worldly ambitions to follow him. These were the men who had come to understand that He taught with the authority and power of God. He had just given that authority and power to them – handed them the keys as we say – and now it was up to them to pass that teaching on to others. But it would not be easy, because when they came face-to-face and toe-to-toe with the secular powers of the world, most of them would end up being martyred in defence of God’s teaching.
I do not know what that prayer of Jesus says to you. However, it is a great consolation and assurance for us. Jesus did not only save us, He prayed for us. What an opportunity! That is not all. It is also a great challenge. As we join the whole Church in awaiting the renewal of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we can ask ourselves: how is the prayer of Jesus fulfilled in my life?
This particular prayer of Jesus has a ringing confidence about the future. Jesus prayed for the future members of the Church in every age because we are included in this prayer. He was with his apostles, He thanked God for them, and He never doubted that they would carry on the work He had given them to do. But the confidence of Jesus in his apostles, those He was leaving behind to continue the mission, springs from God.
He was not afraid of small beginnings. He was not pessimistic about the future. Jesus had two things – belief in God and belief in men. It is one of the most uplifting things in the world to think that Jesus put his trust in men like ourselves. We too must never be daunted by human weakness or by small beginning. We too must go forward with confident belief in God and in men. Then we will never be pessimists, because with these two beliefs the possibilities of life are infinite.
Now if Christ could put his trust in his apostles and prayed for them, who are we to doubt ourselves? Who are we to doubt God? Who can even doubt his Holy Spirit?
As we wait, let us wait in hope and pray relentlessly. If Christ needed prayer to carry on His mission, how can we continue His saving work without being people of prayer?
As Jesus prayed in the difficult hours of His life, we should do the same, especially during this week of prayerful preparation for Pentecost. Trust in the power of the Spirit. Trust and rely on that power alone. Allow it to touch you, to mould you, to shape you, to change you.
As the Prophet Isaiah said: “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
We have to wait on the Lord. ‘Be still and know that I am God’. This is more so because in the missionary work of the Church, no one (and I repeat, no one), can claim to be the Lord, only Jesus Christ is the Lord. Whatever is done or achieved is made possible because of His grace.
These days of preparation for the great celebration of Pentecost – the birthday of the Church – let us ask for the grace to realize and acknowledge the need of divine power and abiding presence among us. Let us give the Lord the chance he needs to work in and through us. Our prayer is to let it be. Let it happen. Let what God has said be done in us. Only in that way is the work of God accomplished in the world of today and tomorrow. And as we wait on the Lord to take his rightful place, we shall encounter difficulties, tensions and crosses of different kinds.
For this purpose St. Peter admonished us in the Second Reading of today: “If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed. It is a blessing for you when they insult you for bearing the name of Christ, because it means that you have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on you.” However he warned against suffering for the wrong thing.
Here is a prayer we might need in this waiting that we are called to do this period between Ascension and Pentecost. Our waiting must draw from the Lord and influence for good our neighbour.
Prayer in time of self needs
When I am hungry, give me someone in need of food.
When I am thirsty, send me someone needing a drink.
When I am cold, send me someone to warm.
When I am grieved, offer me someone to console.
When my cross grows heavy, let me share another’s cross too.
When I am poor, lead me to someone in need.
When I have no time, give me someone I can help a little while.
When I am humiliated, let me have someone to praise.
When I am disheartened, send me someone to cheer.
When I need people’s understanding, give me someone who need mine.
When I need to be looked after, send me someone to care for.
When I think only of myself, draw my thoughts to another.
May this prayer be our reality and experience, now and forever, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE PRAYERS OF JESUS CHRIST
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
John chapter 17 contains the prayer of Jesus. In the fifth century, Clement of Alexandria remarked that in this prayer, Jesus was acting as a high priest on behalf of His people. This prayer is popularly called the “high priestly prayer of Jesus.” This is just one of the many prayers of our Lord in the New Testament. In Luke 3:21 when Jesus was baptized he prayed; in Luke 5:16 Jesus often would slip away to the wilderness to pray; in Luke 6:12 Jesus spent the whole night in prayer; in Luke9:29 He was in prayer when He was transfigured before His three disciples; In Matt.6:9-13 and Luke11:1-4 Jesus taught His disciples to pray; in Matt. 19:13 Jesus prayed to bless the little children. Beloved in Christ, if Jesus was a man of prayer; we must be men and women of prayer. Most people pray for appetite or they pray when they are in trouble. If you only pray when you are in trouble; you are in trouble. Therefore, today’s readings offer us another opportunity to look at prayer. The first reading says the Apostles with one accord devoted themselves to prayer. Today so sad to say, if you look at what is going on in the society and in the media you will discover that many Christians are playing not praying. May God bless us with the Spirit of true devotion and prayer.
The prayer in John 17 can be divided into 3 different parts. Verses 1-5 reflect the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Father. Verses 6-19 indicate the relationship between Jesus Christ and His disciples while verses 20-26 reflect the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church. We shall draw basic inspiration from the first and second parts that border on our gospel reading.
Verses 1-5 is a foundation for the entire prayer. While it speaks about Christ relationship with the Father it also points to our relationship with the Father. The words used in the prayer show that Jesus was in conversation with the Father. Prayer is a conversation between God and man. Again, Jesus calls God ‘Father’ an indication of His intimacy with God. In prayer we enter into intimacy with God. Jesus has unlocked this dimension of relationship for us. Therefore, intimacy with God is a spiritual privilege which should inspire humility, gratitude and reverence. Some people have become too familiar with God that they use God’s name in vein. Others think they have seen God and by so doing; rather than manifest God they idolized themselves. These are they who lack reverence and spiritual courtesy. We must learn from Jesus in the gospel who came to manifest God to us and gave all the glory to God. Jesus requested that he be glorified in order to bring further glory to the Father. Whatever we ask for in prayer in the final analysis is for God’s glory. If our prayers and worship don’t exalt the Father something else is being exalted.
The second part of the gospel reflects the relationship between Jesus Christ and his disciples. Jesus prayed for their keeping. The keeping of the disciples has several aspects: It involves eternal security, that no matter the trial they shall face as a result of their faith, they should be secured. It also involves giving them joy in the midst of the world’s hatred and oppositions. That is why Jesus says they are not of the world and so the world would hate and oppose them. For this reason, the second reading noted “if you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed.” Rejoice and count it all joy when you suffer in the name of Christ, for the glory of the latter days shall be greater than the former. Thus, the Father’s keeping includes joy and steadfastness in opposition. Again, this keeping involves protection against the attacks of Satan. Jesus says “I do not ask thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” Lastly, this keeping includes their sanctification. This sanctification is not pharisaic but internal and authentic holiness. May the good Lord teach us how to pray, keep us from all evil and sanctify us through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Amen.
Let us pray
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.
Act of Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.