Catholic homily for the 7th Sunday of Easter Year B (World Communication Day)
Theme: That they may be one
By: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
Homily for Sunday May 16 2021
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
1 John 4:11-16
Today we celebrate 54th World Communication Day and it is very fitting that our Gospel reading today equally brings to fore Jesus’ communication with the Father. The content of Jesus’ communication with his Father was a prayer of unity for his disciples – “That they may be one” (Jn. 17:21).
In this prayer to the Father the night before his death, aware of his imminent suffering and death, Jesus was even more worried about the suffering his disciples would endure; because the world would not accept them. To keep his disciples on the safer side, he prayed for them. It is clear that Jesus has in mind the intention that his disciples are to remain together. Further still, they are to be so closely united as to be one, “as I and the Father are one” (Jn. 17:21). And it appears the apostles understood this, such that after the Ascension they all gathered together in the Upper Room awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, as he had commanded them, and to complete their number after the suicide of Judas Iscariot they immediately set about choosing a successor for him (First Reading). Jesus, in fact, chose twelve, and they were known as “the Twelve” in early Christian tradition. The number is specifically related to the twelve tribes of Israel, signifying completeness and unity of the Church, the fullness of God´s people (see Luke 22:29-30; Matthew 19:28). Becoming one, they are to call together all his people in one “gathering” (qahal, Hebrew, or ekklesia, Greek), which in English we call the Church.
As Jesus´ disciples, members of his Church, we are not to hide ourselves away from the world. If the Holy Spirit comes into the Church, it is to transform the world through the Church. It is to make men and women living in the world spiritual. Yes, we live in a world where man is wolf to man but instead of running away like cowards; we are to stay to make the world a better place by our way of life. We can only make the world a better place by conquering the evil in the world with love.
Hence, we cannot hide ourselves away from the world, hoping to be untouched by the corruption and evil of the world. In fact, Jesus has “sent them (his disciples) into the world”, precisely so that through them others can come to believe (John 17:20). However, they are to be different from the world (because they are “not of the world”), animated by a different spirit: consecrated (i.e., set apart)… by means of the truth. The world – in greater or lesser measure in different generations – will value expediency, or fame, or pleasure, or popularity, or power, or wealth; but what sets Christ’s followers apart is their dedication (consecration) to teaching the world the truth about God, about man, about life and death.
But through our ignorance, or passions, or even malice, some of us baptized followers of Christ can also be in union with the world and the devil. Therefore, we need protection from the harm the world wants to do to us. We need protection from our own self-destructive desire to join the world that is under the dominion of the evil one. Our Lord says the remedy for this is to be “consecrated in truth.” Our Lord not only teaches us the truth about reality but he himself is the Truth. So we have a choice. We can unite with him. If we do, we will face the wrath of the world. But Our Lord promises to protect us ultimately. Or we can give ourselves over to the world, and whether or not we realize it, to the evil one. If we do, we may receive the short-term “benefits” which the world promises. But then we will experience the destruction that the evil one really has in mind.
Beloved, we, too, can be brave and bold and faith-filled. That’s what Jesus prayed to his Father for. “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.” (That is what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer) “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world… I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (John 17: 16-17) What matters is that Christians witness to Christ.
As Matthias was chosen to “become a witness” to the resurrection of Jesus, so too, we are called to be witnesses. It has never been and never will be easy, but Jesus promised us his help and protection. Jesus prayed also, “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.” (John 17:11) If only we Christians could truly be one, and could truly love one another, always and everywhere; if only we could truly all “remain in love” (1 John 4:16), our witness to the Lord could be even more convincing.
“Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1st John 4: 15-16).
We call the sacrament we are about to receive “Holy Communion” because it unites us not only to God but to one another. Like all sacraments, it actually achieves what it signifies. It creates unity among us. As we receive, let us ask God to open our hearts to the action of His Spirit so that we can become instruments of His peace in this world until we reach the fullness of union with Him and one another in the Kingdom of Heaven.
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*