May 28, 2017
This past Thursday the Feast of the Ascension was celebrated in the dioceses in the Northeast part of the USA and in Nebraska. The rest of the dioceses celebrate the Feast of Ascension this weekend. On Ascension Day the reading from the Acts of the Apostles and from the Gospel of Matthew give an account of Risen Lord ascending to heaven. In Luke's Gospel Jesus instructs the apostles and disciples to return to Jerusalem to wait and to pray. The Gospels and Acts tell of Jesus preparing the apostles for the Spirit either at the Last Supper or on Ascension Day itself.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Gospel - John 14; 1 - 12
The Gospel for the Seventh Sunday of Easter Is part of the Prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper in which he prays for his followers because they accepted the Lord, understood that Jesus was sent by the Father, and believed in the Father. All they need is the completion of their experience of the Holy Trinity in which the Holy Spirit will give them the gifts needed to move their faith into powerful action. The reading from Acts describes what the followers did after the Ascension. They returned to Jerusalem, went to the upper room, and devoted themselves to prayer. They waited and prayed for the prayer and instructions of Jesus to be fulfilled.
Waiting and praying are not always easy for us to do, we much prefer to pray and receive an immediate response. Jesus did not give them a specific time line for how long they should wait and pray, they merely had to do so as an act of faith. Would the paraclete come to them in one day?, three days?, seven days or forty days? They had no idea, they simply followed the instructions of Jesus and gathered each day to wait and pray.
There are two lessons for us in this reading. The first is that we can take the period of time between the Ascension and Pentecost and make it a novena to the Holy Spirit. A time of prayer for us to be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit that we received at Baptism and Confirmation. A novena that moves us to surrender ourselves more to the Lord and to be open to whatever gifts he desires to bless us with. There might be some gifts that we are hesitant to receive, either because we lack the desire for a particular gift or feel inadequate about one gift or the other. True openness in prayer is to surrender ourselves completely to God's desire for us. That is being open to receive and use whatever gifts God pours out to us through the Holy Spirit. The first lesson is the immediate one of preparing for this upcoming Feast of Pentecost.
The second lesson is one of patience in prayer. How often do we bring some petition to the Lord in prayer and get frustrated or discouraged when it is not immediately answered in some way? Jesus' instruction to his followers that lacked a definite time, was a lesson for them to truly trust in God and his plan. It's a lesson that mature faith requires living with patience and continued faith when we put our prayer requests before God. It means putting our time aside and entering into God's time which is without beginning and end.
May we take advantage of these days to wait and pray for God to act in our lives both by renewing the Holy Spirit within us, and blessing us with the faith and patience to continually come before the Lord with our prayers.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.