BY: Rev. Fr Justin Chima Obijuru.

R.1: Acts 1:12-14
R.2: 1 Peter 4:13-16
Gospel: John 17:1-11
Few days ago, Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving behind his Apostles and disciples. Now, they ought to remember the words of Jesus “to leave everything and follow Him.” But, how would they follow one who had just left them and disappeared into the thin air? We are faced, all the time, with this same chagrin starring the apostles in the face. What are they going to do now other than to return to the Upper room, the place where they had the Last Supper with Jesus?

To consider the fact that “heavenly glory awaits Christians after earthly suffering” gives one a closer view to understanding the liturgy of today. Just like when Peter said to Jesus “behold, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” Then Jesus said to them, “truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:27-29). We have to bear in mind the glory that awaits us after a Christian life well spent here. There is a correlation among these three readings of today’s liturgy, so much so that these themes of Prayer, Suffering and Glory are exemplified.

R. 1: Acts 1:12-14: The first reading portrays the theme of Prayer as a vital expression of the Church’s life and mission. Prayer is a right and duty of every Christian. There is the need for prayer at every possible situation and circumstances – when one is in trouble, when one is happy, when one is ill, even in doubt and so on. The gesture of returning to the Upper room and being together in prayer with the Mother of Jesus was just enough for the followers of Jesus. Obviously, they had to remember Jesus’ words to stay together until the Holy Spirit comes. Prayer works, especially, the heartfelt prayer of a good man, very powerfully. And interestingly, it is appropriate that one must “pray in the power of the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1: 20). You must be motivated appropriately by the Holy Spirit in order to pray. Anything short of this cannot pierce the cloud.

R. 2: 1 Peter 4: 13-16: In the second reading, there is a theme of Christian suffering cutting across this short passage of the scripture. Peter tells us “if you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad…” (vs.13). Suffering for Christ, I would say, seems to go with responsibilities. No wonder St. Augustine quoted very often that “For you, I am a bishop [Pastor], but with you, I am a Christian. The first is an office accepted; the second is a gift received. One is danger; the other is safety. If I am happier to be redeemed with you than to be placed over you, then I shall, as the Lord commanded, be more fully your servant.”
Being a Christian is a gift received from God; but then, those saddled-responsibilities are the offices that we accept. One accepts to be a parent, in order to train the children in the practice of the faith. So also godparents, a teacher of Christ, and so on are all called to the service of others. It is a suffering with responsibility that you, a parent must fulfill. Various Church leaders are also saddled with such offices as St. Augustine, being placed over others. Whichever status you find yourself as a Christian, you have an office to protect. This is an astonishing reality of our lives in Christ. St. James says let anyone “know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Fraternal correction can be very awkward, but it is urgently necessary. Therefore, St. Peter admonishes Christians, “if you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).


Gospel: John 17:1-11: The Gospel illustrates the wonderful prayer of unity which Jesus offered to God. It is called the priestly prayer of Jesus. A priest offers sacrifices to God on behalf of himself and the people. Jesus was about to offer Himself as a sacrifice to God. He had to pray for himself, then for His apostles, and then for all who would come to believe in Him. He prays that the Father might be glorified in all that was to take place and that in the fulfillment of His mission; He might be a source of life for all who would believe in Him. We ought to pray like Jesus, that the will of God be fulfilled in our every circumstance.

Prayer occupies a central position in this consideration. As the Apostles and disciples went back to the Upper room and prayed, we are urged to pray at all circumstances. Prayer is to be offered in every situation. “Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13). All life moves in the direction of prayer. The link with God must not be broken off at any moment, whether you are busy or not. Even if you have all that you need in life, one must not stop praying and glorifying God.

Unity in prayer! Unity in Suffering! Unity in Glory!
This is the understanding we can gather from these three themes. The apostles and disciples were united in prayer in the Upper room. They learnt to “bear the burdens of one another” (Gal. 6:2). Trials, sufferings are opportunities for unity. One thing that has struck me since this Corona Virus is the sense of community spirit that our country hasn’t seen since war times. We have seen communities and even individuals coming together to support one another, pray with one another, protect one another and show resilience in the face of this common threat. We “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15). And we know “more than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom 5:3-4). Thus, “when Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col 3:4).


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