HOMILY FOR 7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER – YEAR B

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HOMILY FOR 7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER – YEAR B

HOMILY THEME: JESUS PRAYS FOR US

BY: Fr. Karabari Paul

“Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed.”

This Sunday appears between the Ascension and Pentecost. Prayer is the key element in both the First and Gospel Readings. In the First Reading (Acts 1: 15- 17.20a.20c-26), we see the Apostles praying before getting a replacement for Judas who separated himself from the group when he committed suicide. And in the Gospel, (John 17:11b-19), Jesus prays for His disciples to be one.

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In the 5th century AD, the Bishop of Alexandria, whose name was Clement, said that in this prayer, Jesus was acting as a High Priest for His people. Ever since then, this has been known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.

In the Old Testament, there were three Holy Offices instituted by God: Prophetic Priestly and Kingly. No one assumed these offices on their own. Only those called by God and properly appointed by the anointing of the Holy Spirit entered into these offices. Although Jesus is the perfect fulfilment of all three of these offices, it is the Priestly Office that occupies our attention here. The work of the priest was to mediate for man to God. Priests carried out their work in the temple where they would take the sacrifices that the people would bring and present them to God on behalf of the people. There were ‘thanks offerings’ that were burned and ‘memorial offerings’ that were waved. But mostly, there were ‘sin offerings’ that were sacrificed. The Priest was the called servant of God who would take the animal from the sinner, present it to the Lord, sacrifice it, throw some of the blood onto the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies and then throw some of the blood onto the sinner. And as he did so, he would say, ‘the Lord has forgiven you all of your sins.’ That was the work of the priest.

The High Priest was also a priest. Many priests, only one High Priest. But the High Priest didn’t mediate for a man or woman and their family before God. The High Priest mediated for the whole nation of Israel collectively. The High Priest would carry out one, very special offering to the Lord. Every year, on the Day of Atonement, no one entered into the Temple except the High Priest. He alone would take one animal, a lamb, into the Temple on behalf of the whole nation and sacrifice it at the altar. And then, the High Priest would take the blood of that lamb behind the curtain, into the Holy of Holies, and pour it right onto the Ark of the Covenant, where God Himself was located. And in this way, the High Priest would atone for the sins of the whole nation by one sacrifice, ‘once for all.’

So, it shouldn’t be too hard for us to see why Jesus is our Great High Priest. He is the great Mediator between man and God. He offers one sacrifice for the sins of the whole world to God, a sacrifice far more significant than any of the sacrifices that any of the High Priests of Israel ever made. Jesus offers Himself, for He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the ‘Paschal Lamb,’ the Passover Lamb.

Now in the Upper Room, just before He gives His body over to be sacrificed and His blood to be shed, Jesus prays. Here, we see our Great High Priest interceding for His disciples and for all who will believe through their word. He prays that we may be one.

If Jesus is praying for our oneness, then He is also recognizing and rejecting the boundaries and differences that divide us. There are divisions within ourselves, our families, our churches, our nation. We live in a world full of divisions, male or female; rich or poor; Christian or Muslim; educated or uneducated; young or old; heaven or earth; divine or human; sinner or Saint. We could go on and on listing the boundaries that we encounter and all too often establish or promote. They are not just divisions they have become oppositions. These divisions exist not only out there in the world but primarily and first in the human heart. We project onto the world our fragmented lives.

For every boundary we establish, there is a human being. Ultimately, boundaries and differences are not about issues. They are about real people, with names, lives, joys, sorrows, concerns, and needs just like us. I think we sometimes forget or ignore this. It is easier to deal with an issue than a real person.

Whether or not we admit it the boundaries we establish and enforce are usually done in such a way as to favour us; to make us feel fine, to reassure us that we are right and in control, chosen and desired, seen and recognized, approved of and accepted. In order for me to win, someone must lose. In order for me to be included, someone must be excluded. Otherwise, winning and being included mean nothing. The divisions of our lives in some way become self-perpetuating.

We often deal with the boundaries and differences that divide us by writing agreements, covenants, treaties, and legislation that govern how we will get along with each other and behave in the midst of our differences. But that is not Jesus’ prayer.

Jesus does not pray for our tolerance, our getting along, or just being nice to each other. He does not even pray that our differences would be eliminated. Instead, He prays for our oneness. He prays that we would be one as He and the Father are one so that our oneness would be the revelation of God’s presence to the world. Oneness in the midst of difference becomes a sacramental presence of God’s life in the world.

Oneness is not about eliminating differences. It is about love. Love is the only thing that can ever overcome division. Over and over, Jesus tells us that.
Love God.
Love your neighbour.
Love yourself.
Love your enemy.
Our love for God, neighbour, self, and enemy reveals our oneness, and the measure of our oneness, our God-likeness, is love. In love, there may be differences, but there is no division.

For far too long, we have dealt with each other through our boundaries, differences, and divisions. You can see where that has gotten us. You need only look at the world, read the newspaper, or watch the news. When we deal with others through our divisions, we label, do violence, and hunker down to defend our position. There is no oneness in that.

Though Jesus is praying to the Father, you and I will, in large part, be the ones to answer Jesus’ prayer. We answer his prayer every time we choose how to love, who to love, and where to love. It is time we answer Jesus’ prayer and deal with one another in love. So I wonder, who are the boundaries that await our love?

Today is the end of World Communication Week. The Pope’s message for World Communications Day follows the theme: Artificial Intelligence and the Wisdom of the Heart: Towards a Fully Human Communication. Artificial Intelligence is radically affecting the world of information and communication, and through it, certain foundations of life in society. At this time in history, which risks becoming rich in technology and poor in humanity, our reflections must begin with the human heart. Only by adopting a spiritual way of viewing reality, only by recovering a wisdom of the heart, can we confront and interpret the newness of our time and rediscover the path to a fully human communication.Wisdom of the heart, then, is the virtue that enables us to integrate the whole and its parts, our decisions and their consequences, our nobility and our vulnerability, our past and our future, our individuality and our membership within a larger community. The human heart must be ready to understand the depth of God’s love for man, which can’t be replaced by technology. Human technology must be at the service of love; man must never be alienated from his common humanity. GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE. May God have mercy on us and bless us through Christ Our Lord Amen. Happy Sunday.

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