8 May 2016: Seventh Sunday of Easter

Celebration Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Ascension:  Acts 1:1-11  Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9  Eph 1:17-23 or
Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23
 Lk 24:46-53
7 Sun of Easter:  Acts 7:55-60  Ps 97:1-2, 6-7, 9  Rev 22:12-14, 16-17, 20  Jn 17:20-26

 

Lectionary note
The Lectionary presents two sets of readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Dioceses that celebrate the Ascension on Thursday use the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Dioceses that celebrate the Ascension on Sunday use the Ascension readings. This reflection uses the Seventh Sunday of Easter readings.

Come, Lord Jesus: the church’s witness to the Father

The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection and ascension. This week’s readings ask us to reflect on the post-ascension ekklasia–the believing community, or the church.

The first reading from Acts recounts the death of Stephen, the believing community’s first martyr. Stephen’s vision of the ascended Jesus, standing at God’s right hand, continues the Ascension Day readings and images. Like Jesus, at his death Stephen asks forgiveness for his executioners and commends his spirit to the Lord. This passage also introduces Saul (Paul), who “stood by giving [his] approval and keeping guard over the cloaks of [Stephen’s] murderers.” Stephen’s death becomes a catalyst for Saul, whom Jesus will call to continue Stephen’s work to build the ekklasia among Greek-speaking Jews and gentiles.

The second reading concludes the book of Revelation. John says “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!'” The Spirit is the Holy Spirit; the bride is the ekklasia (Rev 21:2). John invites the thirsty to “drink living water freely.” This living water is God’s grace, which flows from Christ (Rev 7:17). Finally, John prays “Come, Lord Jesus!” This is the ekklasia‘s ancient thanksgiving prayer, found in the Didache (a Christian writing from mid- to late-first century AD).

Today’s gospel from John concludes Jesus’ testament or farewell discourse with his priestly prayer. In this passage, Jesus prays as intercessor, addressing the Father directly while his disciples listen in. Jesus petitions the Father about his present and future disciples. Jesus asks for these things for his believing community:

  • Unity: Jesus prays for future disciples (that’s us) who come to know Jesus and the Father through the words of his present disciples. Jesus prays for unity of all disciples (“that they may be one”), present and future, with Jesus and the Father as the model of unity.
  •  Glory: As the Father glorified Jesus, so Jesus now glorifies his disciples so that they might be perfect in unity and love. The disciples reveal and glorify the Father and Jesus through the believing community’s unity and love (“love one another as I have loved you”).
  •  Witness: The believing community’s unity and love stands as a prophetic witness to the Father and Jesus (“they know that you sent me”). The ekklasia‘s unity and love invites the unbelieving world to know the Father and Jesus.

Jesus’ resurrection and ascension has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season has given us seven weeks to reflect on this cosmos-changing event; the Lectionary’s readings has presented stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. We, present members of the believing community, together with the apostles, Stephen, and all the ekklasia who have gone before us, pray the ancient prayer through the Spirit’s indwelling: Come, Lord Jesus! Our community’s unity witnesses Jesus’ and the Father’s glory to the world of our time and into the ages. Are we showing the unbelieving world that we know the Father?

—Terence Sherlock

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