Acts of the Apostles 1:15-17,20a,20c-26
Matthias is chosen to take Judas' place among the apostles.
Bless the Lord who rules heaven and earth.
1 John 4:11-16
God is seen in our love for one another.
Jesus prays for his disciples.
Background on the Gospel Reading
(If your parish celebrates The Ascension of the Lord this Sunday, see the Sunday Connection for May 17.)
On the seventh Sunday of Easter, we always read from the seventeenth chapter of John's Gospel. This chapter of John's Gospel comes at the conclusion of Jesus' farewell discourse delivered to the disciples at the Last Supper. This entire chapter is a prayer by Jesus, commending himself to the Father and expressing his care and concern for his disciples. At the end of this prayer, Jesus and his disciples depart for the garden, and Jesus is arrested.Several important themes appear in this prayer. First, Jesus' prayer reaffirms the complete union between himself and the Father. Throughout John's Gospel, Jesus has been presented as the one who preexisted with the Father and as the one sent by the Father to do his work on earth. In today's reading, we hear Jesus include all his disciples in this union with the Father. We are reminded that Christ is the source of Christian unity. Through Christ, we are united with one another and with God Our Father.In this prayer, Jesus describes part of his mission in the language of protection. He has protected those who were given to him by the Father. In this we hear echoes of the dualism that is reflected throughout John's Gospel. Beginning with the opening chapter, the Evangelist John has presented Jesus' mission on earth in the context of a cosmic struggle between good and evil, represented by light and darkness. In Jesus' presence, his disciples have been protected from Satan. Now that Jesus is returning to the Father, he prays that his disciples will continue to be protected from the evil one. We can't help but note here the echoes of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, the Lord's Prayer.
We also see in this chapter the distinction found in John's Gospel between the world and the disciples. The disciples are in the world, but they do not belong to the world. Yet like Jesus, they are sent into the world for the world's salvation. As Jesus' teaching and ministry was a source of consternation for some, Jesus knows that the world may not accept his disciples with open arms. Again, we hear echoes of John's theme that salvation is worked out through the cosmic battle between light and darkness. The world, according to John, prefers the darkness. Yet the light will not be overcome by the darkness. Reading this prayer of Jesus during the Easter Season, through the lens of his Resurrection, we know that the light of Christ has overcome the darkness of sin and death in our world. In the opening line of this prayer, we hear Jesus pray that his disciples will be kept in the name that he was given by God. We know that the salvation is given to us in the name of Jesus, and that his name—“God saves”—announces his mission on our behalf.