Daily Homily: May They Be One

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter

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Acts 22:30; 23:6-11
Psalm 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
John 17:20-26

Jesus today concludes his priestly prayer to the Father. He has glorified the Father through his Incarnation and will glorify the Father through his Passion and Death. Jesus is the high-priest who bestows eternal life on the disciples who believe in him. He intercedes for his disciples and asks the Father to sanctify them so that they can enter into communion with them and can be sent out to all nations to testify to the truth of the Gospel.

Now Jesus asks the Father to bring the disciples into unity: communion with God and communion with each other in the Church. The central request of the priestly prayer of Jesus, the unity of believers, is not a worldly product: «It comes exclusively from the divine unity and reaches us from the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit» (Pope Benedict XVI, A School of Prayer, 151).

The divine glory and divine unity of the Father and the Son is rooted in their communion of love. Since the communion of the Father and Son is one of love, and so the communion among the disciples and with God must also be one of love. Love is the sign of the New Covenant established in Christ’s blood; and this love becomes the visible sign of unity which leads those outside the Church to faith in Jesus (see V. DeMeo, Covenantal Kinship in John 13-17, 427-431).

Through faith we enter into communion with Jesus Christ and through him with the Father. «Faith is the real foundation of the disciples’ communion, the basis for the Church’s unity» (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth,Part II, 97). Through the unity of the disciples, the world will recognize Jesus as the one sent by the Father (see Pope Benedict XVI,A School of Prayer, 151).

The founding of the Church, the community of disciples who received their unity through faith in Jesus Christ, takes place during Jesus’ prayer for unity. The Church is one because of her source, the Trinity, and because of her founder, Jesus Christ; she is one through charity, through the profession of one faith received from the Apostles, through the common celebration of divine worship; and through Apostolic succession (CCC, 815). Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. The Church can never lose this unity, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time. Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her (CCC, 820). The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit (CCC, 821).

The Last Supper discourse takes place before Jesus’ passion. The last chapters of the Acts of the Apostles draw out a parallel between the passion of Jesus Christ and that of Saint Paul. Like Christ, who set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:53), Paul is also determined to go to Jerusalem, where he knows that he will undergo trials and will suffer for the name of Christ. In the Gospels, Jesus predicts his passion three times (Mark 8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34; Luke 9:22; 17:25; 18:31-33); Paul’s sufferings are also predicted three times (Acts 20:22-23; 21:4: 21:11-14).

Paul shares in the sufferings of Jesus just as Jesus foretold he would (Acts 9:15-16). On his arrival in Jerusalem the Jews plot to kill Paul. They accuse him – before the high priest Ananias, the Sanhedrin, the Roman governor Felix and King Herod Agrippa II – of acting against the Jewish people and Caesar. In a way that recalls Jesus’ trial, the «Jewish chief priests seek his death, while the governor declares him innocent three times and Herod treats him as innocent once» (W. Kurz, Acts of the Apostles, Baker Academic, 324). Jesus was scourged in the praetorium; Paul is seized and beaten by a Jewish mob in the temple courtyard.

After the Romans rescue Paul from the mob, the cohort commander demands to know the truth about the accusation against Paul and orders the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene. During Paul’s trial, the high priest Ananias orders his attendants to strike Paul on the mouth. This is another parallel: just as Jesus responded to the high-priest, declaring his innocence, so does Paul.

During his trial, Paul seizes the opportunity to pit the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead, against the Pharisees, who believed in it. The Pharisees side with Paul and refuse to condemn him. In the fight that ensues, Paul is rescued once again by the Romans. He remains under arrest, and, during the night, Jesus appears to Paul to encourage him and send him out on his last mission: Paul has witnessed to Jesus in Jerusalem, but now Paul must also bear witness in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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