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Friday, 6 May 2016

Homily for 7th Sunday of Easter Year C By Fr Munachi Ezeogu, CSSp

Acts 7:55-60, Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21, John 17:20-29

On the Gospel - Did Jesus Think of Us?

The 1973 movie, Message to My Daughter, is the moving story of Miranda, a completely disoriented teenage girl who saw the world as “meaningless, cruel and stupid.” Miranda did not know her mother. She died when Miranda was only two years old. Miranda felt unloved and was incapable of loving anyone. Then she discovered some tapes on which her dying mother had recorded a “message” for her. As she listened to the words of her long-dead mother, she realized that she was not the unloved child she thought she was. Her mother had thought of her and had loved her very tenderly. This discovery brought about in her a complete change in the way she saw herself and the world around her. She was finally able to accept herself and put her life together again.

When we read the gospels and the promises of Jesus to his disciples, do we not sometimes wonder whether Jesus actually thought of us, or whether he only had in mind his disciples who were right there before him. Today’s gospel passage is unique in the sense that this is the only place in the gospels where we get the assurance that Jesus thought not only of his immediate disciples but of us as well. The rendering of John 17:20 in the International Children’s Bible brings out more clearly the point we are making: “I pray for these men. But I am also praying for all people who will believe in me because of the teaching of these men.”

It makes a lot of difference for us to know that Jesus thought of us, that he had us in mind as he died and gave his life for the salvation of the world, that he actually prayed for us. We know that God always hears the prayer of Jesus. So, if Jesus prayed for us we would like to know what it was that he prayed for us about. What Jesus asked the Father in our behalf is basically one thing: unity.

Father, I pray that all people who believe in me can be one. You are in me and I am in you. I pray that these people can also be one in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me (John 17:21 ICB).

Jesus’ prayer for Christian unity is much more relevant to the church in the modern world than it was to the church of the early Christians. The church of the early Christians knew nothing about the great walls of division separating Christians from Christians today. The fragmentation of the Christian church in our time has been described as a scandal to the world. How can Christians preach love and forgiveness to the world when they cannot love and forgive one another? How can Christians preach reconciliation and peace in the world when they cannot be reconciled and live in peace with one another? Lack of unity among Christians remains one of the greatest obstacles in the way of Christian witnessing to an unbelieving world. No wonder Jesus prayed that we all may be one “so that the world will believe.”

Jesus went on to say, “I have given these people the glory that you gave me. I gave them this glory so that they can be one, the same as you and I are one” (John 17:22 ICB). In other words, Jesus has bequeathed glory to the church. But this glory can only manifest itself when the unity among Christians reflects the unity between Jesus and the Father. Lack of unity takes away from the glory which Jesus intended for the body of believers.

Finally Jesus prayed for us so that the love with which the Father has loved him may be in us (verse 26). The unity for which Jesus prayed is a unity based on divine love. It is a unity that is possible only with the love of God in us. It is not a unity based on human wisdom, on power or on diplomacy. It is not a unity of uniformity or a unity which deprives others of their individuality but a unity in the essentials, that makes room for diversity. The famous saying that goes back to St Augustine is a good guide for the church as it works it way slowly toward the unity for which Jesus prayed: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty; in all things, charity.”

As we wait and pray for a rekindling of the fire of divine love in the hearts of the faithful at Pentecost, let us all resolve, in our own little ways, to work for the realization of the full unity of all Christians for which Jesus prayed. And the best way to work for this unity is to live in the love of God and our neighbour.

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