1 Peter 4:13-16
The readings for this Sunday are paired with those of Ascension Thursday and continue the mood of this special moment in the life of the Risen Christ (see the reflection for May 29 on Luke’s account of the Ascension in the opening chapter of the Acts of the Apostles).
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (1:12-14), Luke describes the disciples returning to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives immediately after Jesus had ascended into heaven and returned to his Father. This is what they were told to do-instead of "looking up to heaven" and pining for the presence of the Jesus they loved, there were to go back to the city and wait for the power of the Holy Spirit that would given to them. So the apostles, along with Mary the Mother of Jesus and other disciples, devote themselves to prayer, preparing for the incredible transformation that would come over them all. That Spirit would come to them at Pentecost and turn fearful and uncertain followers of Jesus into dynamic witnesses of the gospel to the world.
In the Gospel selection we also witness the final moments of the disciples with Jesus. This beautiful passage is from chapter 17 of John’s Gospel. The setting is the final meal of Jesus with his disciples on the eve of the passion. Here in one of the most striking passages of John’s Gospel, Jesus, aware that he is about to return to his Father, prays for the disciples who will be left behind. Just as Jesus himself has been God’s incarnate Word of God’s love for the world (see the famous passage of John 3:16-17), so now the disciples will be God’s Word in the world, announcing through their own words and deeds Jesus’ message of redeeming love. "…the words you gave to me I have given to them."
In John’s theology, it is also the Spirit-what he calls the "Paraclete," a Greek word that can mean "comforter" or "animator"-that will give his disciples the courage and strength they need to proclaim the gospel to the world.
The scripture readings this Sunday invite us to a moment of prayerful reflection and a readiness for our Christian mission in life. Next Sunday is Pentecost, the moment when the Church was born through the power of the Spirit. Each of us as followers of Jesus is called to mission-to be the presence of Christ in the midst of our world. Pope Francis has said we should not think of ourselves simply as "disciples" or followers of Jesus but as "missionary disciples"-people who through the power of the Spirit can bring God’s love to our world in so many different ways in the varied circumstances of our daily lives. Let us pray and be ready…
Fr. Donald Senior, C.P. is President Emeritus and Professor of New Testament at Catholic Theological Union. He lives at the Passionist residence in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.