(In many dioceses, the Solemnity of the Ascension is celebrated today. If you celebrate the Ascension in your diocese today, see the reflection from the previous Thursday)
The Prayer of Jesus
Seventh Sunday of Easter (When the Ascension was celebrated Thursday)
“Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.” John 17:1–2 (Gospel from Year A)
John’s Gospel, Chapter 17, is referred to as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. It’s a long and beautiful prayer that would be worth reading in its entirety for reflection.
Jesus begins by speaking to the Father that “the hour has come.” His hour of suffering and death is upon Him. But He sees it as an opportunity for His glorification. This is an important revelation within John’s Gospel and especially within this prayer. The Cross is horrible from a human perspective alone. But from the divine perspective or the will of the Father and the salvation of the world, it is glorious and the moment in which Jesus takes up His throne of the Cross. It is glorious because He perfectly fulfills the will of the Father through His freely embraced suffering.
From there, Jesus prays for the Apostles in particular. He prays for their mission so that they will have the grace they need to also embrace the will of the Father and continue the work of Jesus. He knows that it is only by embracing their crosses, in accord with the will of the Father, that they will be able to be glorified.
Lastly, Jesus prays for those who would come to faith through the ministry of the Apostles. In particular, He prays for their unity. The unity Jesus is speaking of is a oneness that comes as a result of being united with the Father in Heaven. It is this oneness that leads to glorification for all. And, once again, this oneness is achieved only by being in full union with the will of the Father.
Reflect, today, upon this beautiful prayer and as you do, allow the Lord to speak to you. Hear Him calling you to perfect fulfillment and glory. But know that this is achieved by the embrace of your “hour.” The Father is calling you to follow in the footsteps of His Son by laying down your life in perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Embracing this cross is the path to Heaven and Jesus’ prayer provides all the grace you need to say “Yes.”
Father in Heaven, I choose to embrace Your perfect and holy will in all things. I accept from You the invitation to embrace my crosses in life and to enter into the hour to which You have called me. May I find true glory in this hour and may my life always give glory to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Unity and Perfection in Christ
Seventh Sunday of Easter (When the Ascension was celebrated Thursday—Year C)
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one…” John 17:20–22
What an amazing prayer! Don’t miss the meaning of this prayer. This is Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer that He prayed just before He was arrested. This prayer concludes the Last Supper at which Jesus instituted the Most Holy Eucharist. It is truly His Eucharistic prayer that culminates in the offering of His life on the Cross. This prayer is not only a prayer; it is also a teaching about the life that we are invited to share in with our Lord.
Note that in the passage quoted above, Jesus prayed not only for the disciples, “but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” In other words, Jesus was praying for you and for everyone who would hear and respond to the Gospel. And His prayer was that you share in the perfect union that Jesus shares with the Father. He prayed that all may be one in the same way that He and the Father are one. Again, this is an amazing prayer!
To begin, it is important to understand the concept of unity. Deep within each of us is a longing to be united to another. The draw to marriage, the love of a parent and child, the desire for friends, and the bonding together as a community all point to this desire. We want unity. We want to be one. Unfortunately, our natural ability to form a holy union with others was deeply wounded by Original Sin. For that reason, the most central mission of the Son of God was not only to restore that which was lost, but to transform it into something even greater. Now, because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are not only able to live in peace with each other, we are also able to share in a new spiritual union with God Himself. This union goes to the heart and soul of who we are.
Look within you and try to discover the innate desire you have for communion with others. When properly understood, pondering this desire is very consoling and enticing. If you can separate selfishness, lust, and possessiveness from the equation, you are left with a very holy desire for union with others. Try to discover this desire within.
As you discover this desire that God placed within you, learn from Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. Understand that this desire is only completely fulfilled by entering into the life and unity of the Most Holy Trinity. We are called to share in God’s very life. When that happens, we also share in a perfect and holy union with one another. In this life, a holy marriage is an earthly prefiguration of that union that is to come. In Heaven, the divine marriage to which we are called will enable us to fulfill every human desire we have.
Reflect, today, upon the draw you have within you to live in union with others. As you ponder this desire, know that it can only be fulfilled by accepting the invitation from the Most Holy Trinity to share in Their divine life. Prayerfully read Jesus’ prayer to the Father and know that He was praying this for you. Join with Him in this prayer and make it your own so that your every human desire will begin to be fulfilled in God.
Most Holy Trinity, You have invited me to share in Your glorious life. You invite me to share in the unity that You share. Please purify me of every selfish desire and fill me with a desire only for You. May this union with You perfectly fulfill me and enable me to obtain true unity with others. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
“Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone.” John 16:30–32
Have you come to believe in Jesus? How deep is that faith? And why do you believe? Are you ready and willing to hold on to that faith no matter what comes your way? Are you ready to follow Him even if it’s difficult and unpopular? Are you ready to suffer as a result of your faith? These are important questions. They are questions that we must answer both when it’s easy to be a Christian as well as when it’s hard.
It’s easy to be a Christian and to follow Jesus when everyone else is doing it. For example, at a baptism or wedding it’s normal to want to belong and to let others know of our support and belief in what they are doing. But what about those moments when your faith is ridiculed or put down? Or when you have to make the difficult choice to turn from cultural pressures and stand out for your faith? These are more challenging times to be a follower of Christ.
In today’s Gospel, there were many who had been analyzing Jesus’ teaching, listening to Him and talking about Him. It seems clear that the consensus was that Jesus was a man of holiness and a great prophet. Many were even coming to believe He was the Messiah. So there was a sort of positive momentum present that made it easier for many people to say that they believed in Him and they believed that He came from God.
Jesus quickly points out to them that, though they believe now, there will be a time that comes soon when most everyone will abandon Him, when they are scattered, and they will leave Him alone. This is obviously a prophecy of His coming persecution and Crucifixion.
One of the greatest tests of our faith is to look at how faithful we are when following Christ is not all that popular. It is in these moments, more than the easy moments, that we have an opportunity to manifest our faith and deepen our resolve to be a Christian.
Reflect, today, on how deep your commitment to Christ goes. Are you ready to follow Him to the Cross? Are you willing to give up everything to Follow Him? Hopefully the answer is a definitive yes. It must be a “Yes” that directs our lives no matter the situation of life we find ourselves in.
Lord, I do believe. Help me to let that faith in You stay strong at all times. Help me to say yes to You and to live that yes always. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you.” John 17:1
Giving glory to the Son is an act of the Father, but is also an act to which we should all be attentive!
First of all, we should recognize the “hour” that Jesus speaks of as the hour of His Crucifixion. This may, at first, seem like a sad moment. But, from a divine perspective, Jesus sees it as His hour of glory. It’s the hour when He is glorified by the Father in Heaven because He perfectly fulfilled the Father’s will. He perfectly embraced His death for the salvation of the world.
We must also see this from our human perspective. From the standpoint of our daily lives, we must see that this “hour” is something that we can continually embrace and bring to fruition. The “hour” of Jesus is something that we must constantly live. How? By constantly embracing the Cross in our lives so that this cross is also a moment of glorification. In doing this, our crosses take on a divine perspective, becoming divinized so as to become a source of the grace of God.
The beauty of the Gospel is that every suffering we endure, every cross we carry, is an opportunity to manifest the Cross of Christ. We are called, by Him, to constantly give Him glory by living His suffering and death in our lives.
Reflect, today, upon the hardships you endure. And know that, in Christ, those hardships can share in His redeeming love if you let Him.
Jesus, I surrender my cross and my hardships over to You. You are God and You are able to transform all things into glory. Jesus, I trust in You.
Surviving This World
Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
“I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” John 17:14–17
“Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” That’s the key to survival!
Scripture reveals three primary temptations we face in life: The flesh, the world and the devil. All three of these work to lead us astray. But all three are conquerable with one thing…the Truth.
This Gospel passage above specifically speaks of the “world” and the “evil one.” The evil one, who is the devil, is real. He hates us and does all he can to mislead us and ruin our lives. He tries to fill our minds with empty promises, offers fleeting pleasure, and encourages selfish ambitions. He was a liar from the beginning and remains a liar to this day.
One of the temptations that the devil threw at Jesus during His forty day fast at the beginning of His public ministry was a temptation to obtain all the world has to offer. The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the Earth and said, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
First of all, this was a silly temptation given the fact that Jesus already was the Creator of all things. But, nonetheless, He allowed the devil to tempt Him with this worldly enticement. Why did He do this? Because Jesus knew we would all be tempted with the many enticements of the world. By “world” we mean many things. One thing that comes to mind, in our day and age, is the desire for worldly acceptance. This is a plague that is very subtle but affects so many, including our Church itself.
With the powerful influence of the media and the global political culture, there is pressure today, more than ever, for us as Christians to simply conform to our age. We are tempted to do and believe what is popular and socially acceptable. And the “gospel” we are allowing ourselves to hear is the secular world of moral indifferentism.
There is a powerful cultural tendency (a global tendency due to the Internet and media) to become people who are willing to accept anything and everything. We have lost our sense of moral integrity and truth. Thus, the words of Jesus need to be embraced more today than ever. “Your Word is Truth.” The Word of God, the Gospel, all that our Catechism teaches, all that our faith reveals is the Truth. This Truth must be our guiding light and nothing else.
Reflect, today, on how much of an influence the secular culture has on you. Have you given into secular pressure, or the secular “gospels” of our day and age? It takes a strong person to resist these lies. We will resist them only if we stay consecrated in the Truth.
Lord of all Truth, I do consecrate myself to You. You are the Truth. Your Word is what I need to stay focused and to navigate through the many lies all around me. Give me strength and wisdom so that I may always remain in Your protection away from the evil one. Jesus, I trust in You.
Lifting Your Eyes to Heaven
Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” John 17:20–21
“Lifting His eyes to Heaven…” What a great phrase!
As Jesus lifted His eyes to Heaven, He prayed to His Father in Heaven. This act, of lifting His eyes, reveals one unique aspect of the presence of the Father. It reveals that the Father is transcendent. “Transcendent” means that the Father is above all and beyond all. The world cannot contain Him. So, in speaking to the Father, Jesus begins with this gesture by which He acknowledges the transcendence of the Father.
But we must also note the imminence of the Father’s relationship with Jesus. By “imminence” we mean that the Father and Jesus are united as one. Their relationship is one that is profoundly personal in nature.
Though these two words, “imminence” and “transcendence,” may not be a part of our daily vocabulary, the concepts are worth understanding and reflecting upon. We should strive to be very familiar with their meanings and, more specifically, with the way that our relationship with the Holy Trinity shares in both.
Jesus’ prayer to the Father was that we who come to believe will share in the unity of the Father and the Son. We will share in God’s life and love. For us, this means we start by seeing the transcendence of God. We also lift our eyes to Heaven and strive to see the splendor, glory, greatness, power, and majesty of God. He is above all and beyond all.
As we accomplish this prayerful gaze to the Heavens, we must also strive to see this glorious and transcendent God descend into our souls, communicating to us, loving us, and establishing a deeply personal relationship with us. It’s amazing how these two aspects of God’s life go together so well even though, at first, they can appear to be complete opposites. They are not opposed but, rather, are wedded together and have the effect of drawing us into an intimate relationship with the Creator and sustainer of all things.
Reflect, today, upon the glorious and all-powerful God of the Universe descending into the secret depths of your soul. Acknowledge His presence, adore Him as He lives within you, speak to Him and love Him.
Most glorious Lord, help me to always lift my eyes to Heaven in prayer. May I constantly turn to You and Your Father. In that prayerful gaze, may I also discover You alive in my soul where You are adored and loved. Jesus, I trust in You.
Do You Love Me?
Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17
Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Why three times? One reason was so that Peter could “make up” for the three times he denied Jesus. No, Jesus did not need Peter to apologize three times, but Peter needed to express his love three times and Jesus knew it.
Three is also a number of perfection. For example, we say God is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” This triple expression is a way of saying that God is the Holiest of all. By Peter being given the opportunity to tell Jesus three times that He loved Him it was an opportunity for Peter to express His love in the deepest of ways.
So we have a triple confession of love and a triple undoing of Peter’s denial going on. This should reveal to us our own need to love God and seek His mercy in a “triple” way.
When you tell God that you love Him, how deep does that go? Is it more a service of words, or is it a total and all-consuming love? Is your love of God something that you mean to the fullest extent? Or is it something that needs work?
Certainly we all need to work on our love, and that is why this passage should be so significant to us. We should hear Jesus asking us this question three times also. We should realize that He is not satisfied with a simple, “Lord, I love You.” He wants to hear it again, and again. He asks us this because He knows we need to express this love in the deepest way. “Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You!” This must be our ultimate answer.
This triple question also gives us the opportunity to express our deepest longing for His mercy. We all sin. We all deny Jesus in one way or another. But the good news is that Jesus is always inviting us to let our sin be a motivation for deepening our love. He doesn’t sit and stay angry at us. He doesn’t pout. He doesn’t hold our sin over our heads. But He does ask for the deepest of sorrow and a complete conversion of heart. He wants us to turn from our sin to the fullest extent.
Reflect, today, upon the depth of your love for God and how well you express it to Him. Make a choice to express your love for God in a triple way. Let it be deep, sincere and irrevocable. The Lord will receive this heartfelt act and return it to you a hundredfold.
My loving Lord, You do know that I love You. You also know how weak I am. Let me hear Your invitation to express my love for You and my desire for Your mercy. May I offer this love and desire to the fullest extent. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus’ Hidden Life
Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written. John 21:25
Imagine the insights that our Blessed Mother would have had about her Son. She, as His mother, would have seen and understood so many hidden moments of His life. She would have watched Him grow year after year. She would have watched Him relate and interact with others throughout His life. She would have noticed that He was preparing for His public ministry. And she would have witnessed so many hidden moments of that public ministry and countless sacred moments of His entire life.
This Scripture above is the final sentence of the Gospel of John and is one we do not hear very often. But it offers some fascinating insights to reflect upon. All we know about the life of Christ is contained in the Gospels, but how could these short Gospel books ever come close to describing the totality of who Jesus is? They certainly cannot. To do that, as John says above, the pages could not be contained in the whole world. That’s saying a lot.
So a first insight we should take from this Scripture is that we know only a small portion of the actual life of Christ. What we know is glorious. But we should realize that there is so much more. And this realization should fill our minds with interest, longing and a desire for more. By coming to know how little we actually do know, we will hopefully be compelled to seek Christ more deeply.
However, a second insight we can gain from this passage is that, even though the numerous events of Christ’s life cannot be contained in countless volumes of books, we can, nonetheless, discover Jesus Himself in what IS contained in the Holy Scriptures. No, we may not know every detail of His life, but we can come to meet the Person. We can come to encounter the Living Word of God Himself in the Scriptures and, in that encounter and meeting of Him, we are given all we need.
Reflect, today, on how deeply you know Jesus. Do you spend sufficient time reading the Scriptures and meditating on them? Do you speak to Him daily and seek to know and love Him? Is He present to you and do you regularly make yourself present to Him? If the answer to any of these questions is “No” then perhaps this is a good day to recommit yourself to a deeper reading of the Sacred Word of God.
Lord, I may not know everything about Your life, but I do desire to know You. I desire to meet You every day, to love You and to know You. Help me to enter more deeply into a relationship with You. Jesus, I trust in You.
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