Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Sharing in the divine love of God
The lives of the disciples testify to the fact that God loves us
June 4, Feast of the Ascension
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
The Gospel of John, which has been our primary gospel during this season, presents to us what has been called Christ's priestly prayer. Christ, of course, was not a priest in the Jewish sense of the word. Yet, his action and thoughts mirrored the actions of the priesthood. Jesus offered a prayer to God addressing God as Father. Some authors have called this prayer, John's version of the Our Father. John, in his gospel, does not include the prayer that we familiarly call the Our Father. That prayer is the one found in the synoptic gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Jesus speaks as an intercessor, which is what the priesthood is about. The prayer is addressed as previously stated to God as Father and the disciples seem to only overhear what he is saying. The prayer speaks about the care of both present and future disciples. Jesus announces that the hour has come. The hour is a reference to his passion and death, which will be followed by his resurrection and glorification.
Today's Gospel is only part of that prayer. It begins with the recognition by Jesus that he will soon die. He also says that the disciples will remain. So when he returns to his Father, Jesus asks that the Father care for them. The author of the gospel paints the world as being hostile and unbelieving. Jesus says that he has cared for disciples while he was with them. He "guarded them" and none were lost except the one, the author calls the son of destruction.
Now since he is going to God he wants them to share the joy of knowing God, as he has known the Father. He must send them into that hostile world so that others may know God more deeply. Their joy will sustain them and he prays that God may keep them from the evil one (similar to the expression in the Our Father) when he is now longer physically present. So by sharing Jesus' mission they will also share his joy. They are to be consecrated in the truth, which is God's Word. The author in using the expression consecrated might be thinking of Jesus' voluntary giving of his life. It is this consecration that will, in turn, sanctify the disciples for their mission.
Our other two readings continue some of these thoughts. Since Judas betrayed Jesus, the absence of one of the disciples is deeply felt. They, because of their mission to witness to Jesus, determine to select another person to take Judas' place. The qualification is that the person must be able to witness and, therefore, must have been part of their company from Jesus' baptism to his resurrection. Luke seems to be emphasizing the role of the church in being able to testify to the action and ministry of Jesus. The twelve who symbolically represent the twelve tribes of Israel are to be special in their role. They are to be unique sharers of what Christ has done and also to whom he really is.
The second reading from the First Letter of John stresses that the present disciples must find in Jesus the model of their mutual love. Since the Son knows the Father, it is through the Son that the disciples will know the Father by faith. The disciples with their shared love will also possess the divine life. The reason why we know this is true is not only the presence of the Spirit but also that they know God has sent his Son. They, by their life, will testify to the fact that God loves us. In turn this love will be the basis for their love for each other. So again the circle is closed and our human love is a sharing in the divine love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(Fr. Ver Bust is professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)