(If your diocese celebrates the Ascension on Thursday, May 21, use the following readings for Sunday, May 24. In those dioceses where the Ascension is celebrated on Sunday, use the readings for The Ascension of the Lord. Check with your local parish.)
Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14
After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the apostles return to Jerusalem and gather in prayer with Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The Lord is our salvation.
1 Peter 4:13-16
If you suffer for Christ, you will be blessed.
Jesus prays for his disciples.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s reading is a prayer, which appears at the conclusion of Jesus’ Last Supper discourse. At the end of the prayer, Jesus is arrested in the garden. The prayer might be read as Jesus’ final commendation of himself to the Father. In the prayer, Jesus also expresses care and concern for his disciples.
Jesus’ prayer reaffirms the complete union between Jesus and the Father. Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus has been presented as the Word, who pre-existed with the Father and was sent to do the Father’s work on earth. In this prayer we learn that Jesus’ life and ministry have been directed toward one purpose, revealing the Father. When this work is accomplished, Jesus is to return to the Father to be glorified. Regardless of what happens to Jesus, in John’s Gospel, Jesus and the Father are in charge. Even in the description of Jesus’ death, Jesus does not simply die but instead hands over his spirit.
In today’s Gospel we also note the distinction found in John’s Gospel between the world and the disciples. The disciples are in the world, but they are separate from it because they have been given to Jesus. They are chosen from the world to be in service to the world for its salvation. This salvation has been accomplished in Jesus because Jesus has revealed the Father to the world, but the disciples will be sent by Jesus to make both the Father and Jesus known to the world. Jesus’ prayer is for the disciples’ work in the world.