The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven, which we celebrated last Thursday, was Jesus’ last physical journey with his Apostles. His Ascension does not mean he has left us completely. However, his Ascension into heaven means that he has left in the flesh to his glory in heaven at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, but to be with us in his Spirit. He ascended into heaven to be king forever and to provide a place of glory for us his followers. If we abide faithfully to the end, that promise will come true. In the first reading, the disciples came back after Jesus’ Ascension to the life of prayer together with Mary, the mother of Jesus and other women in the upper room.
They find their hope and consolation in being together praying in preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit in the absence of their Master and Lord. Brethren of Jesus mentioned here have also been mentioned many times in the gospels. The terms brother and sister in Hebrew and Aramaic were used for real brothers and sisters as well as for cousins, and for even remote kinsmen. These languages had no word for “cousin” or “relatives,” all who belonged to the one tribe or clan were called and looked on as brothers. It is clear from the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke that Jesus had no brother or sister in the strict sense, and could not have because of Mary’s plan of virginity before, during and after the birth of Christ. Yet Matthew and Luke spoke of brothers of Jesus, for they meant cousins or relatives. In today’s Gospel, Jesus passionately prays to his Father before his passion and death.
His prayer is not so much for himself, but for the disciples the Father has given him. He entrusts his disciples to the Father saying, “For they are yours; all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them” (John17:10). This prayer known as the priestly prayer of Jesus was said on the night before he died. It is a priestly prayer because as Mediator; he intercedes with the Father for us. From this prayer of Jesus we learn the following truth. First, the disciples were given to Jesus to continue his work after him in this world. Every baptized Christian is called to extend the kingdom of God ushered in by Jesus in the world. It is the Spirit of God which moves our hearts to respond to this call of Christ. Second, through us his disciples, glory has come to Jesus, just like a cure of a patient brings honour to the doctor; a successful scholar brings honour to his teacher. Each time we excel in doing good. Jesus is very happy with us. Third, the disciple is the person commissioned to a mission. As God the Father sent out Jesus, so Jesus sends out his disciples on a mission.
And that is why he says: “As the Father sent me so I send you” (John29:21). Here Jesus is praying for his disciples, not for the world. The world here means “human society organizing itself without God.” He prays for his disciples so that they may win the world for him. Fourth, in this prayer, Jesus did not pray that his disciples should be taken away from the world. He never prayed that they might find escape; no. He prayed that they may be victorious. Every Christian must lend hand to Jesus from wherever he or she finds himself or herself – from the middle of the world that does not know God. As Christians, we are all like catalyst – the agent that causes change but remains unchanged. Fifth, Jesus prayer for the unity of his disciples. United we stand, divided we fall. When there are divisions, exclusiveness, where there are unhealthy rivalry between brothers and sisters, between devotional societies in the Church, between the Churches the cause of Christian unity is harmed and the prayer of Jesus is frustrated. Sixth, Jesus prayed that God should protect us from the attack of the evil one.
We should not be deceived, the devil is real and powerful. But it is encouraging to know that God is the sentinel who stands over our lives to guard us from the assaults of the devil. We fall because we try to rely on our strength alone and forget to seek the help of the God who protect us from all dangers. For instance, God gave each one of us a guardian angel. Do we invoke their help to protect us? Do you know and pray the prayer to the guardian angel? Jesus gave us the Holy Mass, the Sacraments especially the Sacrament of Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of reconciliation (Penance). He taught us to pray always without ceasing so as no to fall into temptation. Do we invoke the Saints especially the Blessed Virgin Mary? In this month of May dedicated to her, do we pray the Rosary individually and as a family? If you are alone, you expose yourself for the devil’s attack. Behind every evil their is a personal devil. Hence St. Paul says: “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities and their dark powers that govern this world.
We are struggling against the spirits and supernatural forces of evil” (Eph.6:12). St. Peter tells us in the second reading that sharing in the sufferings of Christ is a cause for rejoicing as it will lead to sharing in the glory of Christ. If we are subjected to reproaches for the sake of the name of Christ, it means that the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. Being Christ’s followers is not our choice, but it is God’s providential grace. We are God’s adopted children through the death and sufferings of Christ. We share in the sufferings of Christ, but destined to rejoice also in his glory. Sinners or sinless we are still followers of Christ and his priestly prayer for us asking his Father “to give eternal life to all who are his” was not said in vain. Unless we deliberately desert him, he will not desert us.
He will bring us to the Father, where we will add external glory to the Blessed Trinity, and rejoice forever in the company of Christ who shared our humanity with us so that we could share and enjoy his divinity and humanity in heaven for all eternity. May God grant that we may find our hope and joy in living as a true community of faith and prayer especially in moment of tribulation through Christ our Lord. Amen. May God bring to an end speedily the Coronavirus pandemic ravaging the whole world, heal completely those who have contracted this pandemic, guide and protect medical practitioners caring for them from contracting this disease and heal completely those who have contracted it amongst them, endow medical experts and scientists with wisdom and knowledge to discover the cure for this disease, grant eternal rest to those who have died through this pandemic, console their families and loved ones and above all bring us closer to Him through Christ our Lord. Amen. Wishing you a happy Sunday and a fruitful week ahead.