Homily seventh sunday of Easter, May 29th 2022 – Our Saviour Parish
Act of the Apostles 7, 55-60
Apocalyps 22, 12-14.16-17.20
Gospel St. John 17, 20-26
Happy to be here again! It is a unique Sunday. We are in between some joyful celebrations: Easter and Ascension have been celebrated, but Pentecost is not yet there. Jesus Christ has left the world and promised his presence by his Holy Spirit. But until now, it is just a promise. A future that we are waiting for. The disciples feel abandoned. They are waiting in fear and weakness together in the same room where they had the Last Supper. Of course they remember the chaos of that night. It started as a celebration of friendship and ended in turmoil: a night of betrayal and denial. Not a very happy memory! How to live with it?
Also in our lives friendships can be destroyed or forgotten. Have we been faithful to all our friends whom we met in our lives? Unfortunately not, and I must admit I know a few of them myself. A good excuse could be: sometimes there is too much friendship to follow up in one’s life. But aren’t people waiting for us, for a sign of friendship, commitment and care? Aren’t people out there waiting for our initiative?
In this absence of Christ and his Holy Spirit the lectures of today invite us to enter into the prayer of Jesus Himself. The gospel of St John offers us his words as an invitation to enter into prayer ourselves. Let this celebration also be a moment of prayer. Let us in a moment of silent prayer remember our forgotten and broken friendships.
Brothers and sisters, dear friends of the Lord,
Believing in God in our turbulent world of war, starvation, shootings of children is quite difficult. How to justify our trust in a Divine Providence while we see a humanity lost in despair? When we cannot protect our children from sick minds who themselves are victims of a mental illness. I believe any protection in our society or in our international geographical relations with the help of guns and arms of any kind is an illusion. In the end this will always end in catastrophes, as we see in Ukraine and in Texas. Apparently the leaders of the peoples do not have the leadership capacities that bring citizens and also nations together.
Whom can we trust? Why isn’t the world led by the goodness of the great majority of mankind? Why are we kidnapped by the evil elements in our society that are shortsighted and protecting personal interests and positions of power and wealth? The example of St Stephen today invites us to participate in his vision of the Triune God. It is not just a happy vision of a dying man. It is revealing the core of our belief: God the Father, who received his Son as his Right Hand, sends out his presence to us to inspire us to live in his Holy Spirit. This Spirit provides us an internal attitude that strengthens us to stay upright and faithful in our turbulent circumstances. It is not the world that will make us weak and unsecure, but the absence of an inspirational source that opens our mind for the vision of God. As long as we live through and by this Spirit we are reminded of our unity with God Himself who is the source and perspective of our lives. This spiritual attitude makes us pray for reconciliation and forgiveness even if the world finds it ridiculous. This prayer is our armament. Stephen did pray himself in memory of Christ on the cross: “Forgive them because they do not know what they do”. It seems to be a weak weapon, but the only one that will bring ultimate peace.
Jesus gives us the same example in his prayer during the last night of his life. It is a prayer of unity, of commitment to one another, a prayer of communion. Instead of a prayer destroying our enemies, or a prayer of protection against evil forces, Jesus leads us into a prayer of a church that knows she is called to be an example for the world. She is called to be an example of unity in a scattered world.
This calling is a high responsibility. We know how often members of the church, leaders, religious and priests and laypersons have violated this calling. But there are innumerable men and women who live their baptism as a source of unity and fraternity; the calling Fratelli tutti must come here to our minds. Pope Francis even discussed this fraternity with the Islamic world. The Declaration on human fraternity for world peace and living together with the Grand Imam from Egypt is reinforcing the powers in the world that can bring people and religions together.
The Pope is building bridges that many people are afraid of to take. Isn’t he selling out our Christian faith, people might ask? But I think he is responding to the prayer of Jesus himself that we heard in our gospel reading today. This unity will never be easy. Even the easy unity in our families and friends can also be damaged and destroyed, we know that of our own experience. Then still we feel the calling to restore as much as possible of these broken relationships and friendship: to transform a love relationship in some form of new friendship, or to take up again a friendship that was forgotten.
So also the more difficult unity among religions and cultures must be built up in the name of the One God who is father of all peoples and nations. Never forget that our profession of the faith in One God is the same time a responsibility to build up the unity in our world. Let us live and act with the vision of Saint Stephen in our hearts and minds: the One God wo offers the Spirit of Jesus Christ as a source of inspiration and action. May this help us to build bridges where other people only see distance. Amen