"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

7th SUNDAY OF EASTER -C- May 29, 2022

Acts 7: 55-60; Psalm 97;
Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17; John 17: 20-26

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

WELCOME to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the retreatants of the Dominican Laity from Oklahoma City.

Some parishes will celebrate the Ascension today. We will send those reflections and also post them on our webpage: ASCENSION



Today could be called "Farewell Sunday," because one motif in our readings is: "words of farewell." Let’s explore the farewell theme to discover how we can incorporate the message from the Word into our lives.

First the facts: Stephen had been commissioned, along with six exemplary disciples, to "serve at table" (Acts 6:1-6). Like Jesus, Stephen had worked "great wonders and signs among the people (6:8). His preaching and debates had stirred up opposition; he was accused of blasphemy and brought before the Sanhedrin, the tribunal of elders. There false witnesses testified against him. After a long discourse before the tribunal, in which he claimed the death and resurrection of Jesus had fulfilled the Law of Moses, Stephen concluded his speech by accusing the religious leaders of being: "Stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit, you are just like your ancestors (7:51).

Today’s reading from Acts, has Stephen’s concluding words at his trial. He tells his opponents of a vision he is having: "Behold I see heavens opened and Jesus, the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (7:56). Those words infuriated them and they dragged him outside the city and stoned him. Stephen"s farewell words reveal that the promise Jesus made before his ascension, to send the Spirit to his disciples, was fulfilled.

The account of Stephen’s death is just one of many in Acts that reveal the work of the Spirit, enabling Stephen and the disciples to live the life of Jesus. Like his Lord, Stephen prays for his executioners, asking Jesus not to hold the sin against them. The Spirit of Jesus enables his followers to give up their lives for him: sometimes quite literally, at other times, in daily service, doing the works Jesus did in his life. With the gift of the same Spirit we have received in baptism, none of us is exempt from the sacrifices discipleship requires.

We take to heart Stephen’s words and the example he sets for us and we strive tp put them into action. Which means, we do not hold grudges, resentments and vengeance against any one person, or group of people, because the Lord does not hold our sins against us. Like Stephen, we pray: "Lord, Jesus receive my spirit." And of course, that is not a prayer we would pray only at our dying, but each day in our prayer and service to the Lord. We offer our mind, heart and all that we do, our entire life, as well as our death, into the safe and loving embrace of the One who died for us.

The reading from Revelation offers us another example of "words of farewell." Today’s reading is from the closing line of John’s eschatological vision, i.e. a vision of last things. The risen Jesus claims to be both the beginning and end of all things – the Alpha and the Omega. In other words, Jesus has the attributes of God and claims an intimate union with God. The words of farewell in the reading are from the Book of Revelation." It is the last book in the New Testament. That, in itself, is a kind of farewell, the closing words of the New Testament. But those words live now in each believer who hears them and puts them into practice.

Revelation ends with a prayer fundamental to our faith: "Amen! Come Lord Jesus!" Revelation was written for a church suffering dire persecution. The risen Christ promises he will come soon and will bring judgment with him. Those enduring pain with no relief in sight, are given a prayer of urgency and hope to pray. "Amen! Come Lord Jesus!" It is a prayer we can pray each day: "Come Lord Jesus." Come into my days when I work and when I rest. Come into my feelings, my loving, my forgiveness, my giving and my receiving. Come and renew the face of the earth, with justice and compassion."

Today’s portion from John’s Gospel comes from a section of the Last Supper. Jesus is with his disciple at table. His words are from his farewell discourse and this section is called the "Priestly Prayer." When it ends, the Passion Narrative begins. Jesus prays for those who will come to faith because of the witness of his disciples. He prays for a unity through the love that will bind his disciples to him, the Father and to one another. This love among them will be a manifestation of God’s love in the world and will draw others to faith.

Jesus closes with an astounding revelation: the very same love he shares with his Father will be present among his followers. Which stirs us to ask: is that love evident in my actions and words – even towards my enemies? Does my church community, in its worship and works in the world, shine with the light of that love?

The reading stirs us to make personal and communal examination of conscience. Of course we fall short, but with the Spirit we voice a prayer of trust and longing, with the closing words provided by the Book of Revelation: "Amen! Come Lord Jesus!"

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/052922-sunday.cfm