- Acts of the Apostles 1:15-17, 21-26
- Psalm 1
- 1 John 5:9-13
- John 17:6-19
In his final time with his disciples, Jesus intercedes for them with the Father, though prayer. He affirms the completion of his mission with them. His mission included many things, but it did not include finding disciples. The disciples first belonged to the Father – they were men and women who belonged to God and who recognized Jesus’ manifestation as one who came from God.
Today’s lessons focus on the nature of discipleship and life in the Christian community. We hear of the selection of a new member of the ‘inner circle’ of Apostles to replace Jesus. The Epistle shows that the community of faith is based upon the acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God. The Gospel recognizes the reality of living in a hostile world without the physical presence of Jesus. The Psalm illustrates the blessedness of living a righteous life – what a Christian community is called to be.
This is the Sunday before Ascension Day (on Thursday), so it is fitting we recall our mission going forth as Christ sends us: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:17-19).
Now that Jesus prepares to leave his friends, after caring for them like a shepherd for several years, he reminds the Father of haw the has done for them:
- Jesus has revealed God’s name by teaching the disciples about God’s nature. God’s name represents the fullness of God’s character. Though the depths of God will never be exhausted (Ephesians 3:19), the yet undiscovered truths about God will not refute the fullness of Jesus’ revelation (John 17:6, 26).
- Jesus has given them words of God. God has a message for all people, and that message has been delivered in Jesus’ life and teachings (John 17:8, 14; Hebrews 1:1-2).
- Jesus kept the disciples, guarding them from evil and helping them to remain faithful (John 17:12). Judas also witnessed Jesus’ work, but his choice destined his fall, as scripture had prophesied (John 13:18, 17:12; Psalm 41:9)
The Body of Christ becomes a living sacrament to the world, an “outward and visible sign” of Christ’s redeeming presence in history through the Church. On the eve of the Ascension, we are called to reflect upon how the Church is poised to proclaim God’s love to the world. As the truth was entrusted to the disciples, so too are we bestowed with this same holiness as we are sent out into the world to bear witness to the truth.
On this last Sunday of the Easter season, the foundations of the Christian community are prepared for empowerment by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
- What do you learn about belonging to God from these verses? In what sense do you think the disciples were the Father’s? In what sense did the Father give them to the Son?
- Reread the verses that mention the name of God. Read Exodus 3:1-15, looking for the way God’s personal name is revealed to God’s people. What do you learn from this Old Testament passage about the character of God? How does an understanding of God’s name affect your understanding of John 17:6-12?
- In the prayer of Jesus in the Gospel, what does Jesus ask the Father for his disciples? How would you describe the relationship between Jesus and the disciples in this passage? How does this relationship extend to us today?
- In your own life, what are the challenges you face as you attempt to live as a Christian in our contemporary world?
- What do you understand to be the life of discipleship in the community of faith?