1st Reading: Acts 7: 55 – 60
The Stephen narrative links his death with the beginning of the Gentile mission and introduces Saul (eventually Paul). Stephen is the church’s first martyr, and mimics Jesus’ death in how he commends his spirit (to Jesus this time and not the Father) and asks forgiveness of his enemies. Mark that Saul is one of the enemies that he is referring to, (R. Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 366). What truths speak to you in this reading? Do you feel Jesus’ presence with you when you are faced with a trial? Would you accept and surrender to persecution like Stephen did?
2nd Reading: Revelation 22: 12 – 14, 16 – 17, 20
Christ is the speaker in these oracles which bring the book of Revelation to a conclusion (Please note that the Bible begins with God creating the heavens and the earth and ends with Jesus saying he is coming…both messages of hope and newness of life.). The expectation of the Lord’s imminent return gives the words a sense of urgency. He will return as the judge rewarding and punishing according to conduct. He is the eternal One, here applying to himself the words used earlier by God himself (1:8), (p. 367).
The summons to “come” in verse 17 allude to the liturgical practice of summoning the righteous to the Eucharist. We are reminded that the summons into the liturgical assembly is an image of that final summons to the gathering of the holy ones of God, (R. Perkins’ Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 84). Have you ever thought of Eucharist in this way? Do you feel the dynamic of being called by God and the need for a response?
Gospel: John 17: 20 – 26
This reading is Jesus’ prayer at his last meal with his disciples. For whom does Jesus pray, for what does Jesus pray, and why does Jesus pray for it? Jesus prays for those who would believe in him on the word of the disciples. He is praying that they may all be united with the same intimacy that Jesus knows with his Father. The reason for the prayer is to bring people to faith, so people will believe that the Father sent Jesus to the world. The unity that Christ desired for his disciples would be a result of the living presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit! This is something that John’s community in particular needed to hear (W&W, Birmingham, p. 312). As you reflect on Jesus’ prayer for you, what is most comforting to you, and what might you need to change in order to conform your life more closely to what Jesus wants for you?
It is easy to see the Trinity in Jesus’ prayer. We are being called to be one with God just as Father, Son and Spirit are one with each other. This oneness unites us with each other too. Jesus, as the incarnation…the Word made flesh…is the way. The cross is a symbol of our oneness…vertical connection with God and horizontal connection with each other. Michael Downey has more thoughts on this in Altogether Gift–
The incomprehensibility of God lies in the utter gratuity of life and love, in God’s constant coming as gift. God is inexhaustible Gift, Given and Gift/ing in and through love. This is who God is and how God is. Whatever may be known of this ineffable mystery, unfathomable because of the depth and prodigality of this life pouring itself forth in love, is known in and through the gift of the indwelling Spirit of God enabling us to recognize the Word made flesh whose life, passion, and Resurrection are the very disclosure of God’s mystery.
The relationality of the three bonded in the one Love spills over into a relationality with the world, thereby making it possible for human persons to enter into this communion in the one Love.
Human personhood is not something achieved in autonomy or independence or self-determination or self-sufficiency. Rather, human personhood is received in self-donation, being toward, always toward the other and others in relation.