Today’s Gospel John 17:1-11 is identified as one of Jesus’ Farewell Discourses. This one he said just before the Crucifixion, but we revisit this passage again in and around the Ascension, to remind us – yet again – that Jesus’ time on Earth has ended, until he comes again. I don’t know about you, but I feel sad all over again, even though the joy of the Easter season persists for another week.
Jesus reminds us that he will not leave us “orphans,” because he will send the Holy Spirit. I sympathize with the disciples, used to touching Jesus’ humanity in time, used to hearing his human voice, and looking into his human eyes. I can never read the Passion without weeping, and so these Farewell Discourses – at the Crucifixion and the Ascension – leave me teary.
But what we’re called to, as we prepare for the gift of the Holy Spirit, is to grow up. Once we drank only milk, and now we eat meat. Once we could sit like children around Jesus, but now we must strike out. We are to be Jesus’ body – his eyes, his ears, his heart in the world – because he lives in us.
Let’s take a minute to pause, and remember all that we miss of Jesus’ Earthly life – in sympathy with the apostles – and remember what Jesus asks of us:
(1) Reverence life. Jesus’ holy birth stands alongside of the massacre of the Holy Innocents — and how true in our own age, amidst the scourge of abortion.
(2) Wait until the appointed time. Joseph waited in Egypt, until God called him to return to the Holy Land. Jesus told Mary “my time has not yet come,” at the Wedding of Cana. Mary gave us explicit directions: Do all that He says. We face many crossroads in our lives, and patience is required if we are to know God’s will for us. Prayerful discernment takes time.
(3) Participate in all the observances and feasts of the Church. Jesus summoned John the Baptist to baptize him. Jesus practiced the fullness of the faith practices – from the weekly purification in the Mitzvah, through the Shabbat and the Sabbath worship and rest requirements. Jesus followed the liturgical year of the Jews, with annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the Passover.
(4) Ask for miracles of healing. Jesus told the disciples that they are to heal in His name. “Ask and you shall receive; knock, and the door shall be open to you.” Yet, when the disciples faced a demon which was unyielding to their prayers, Jesus reminded them there are some demons that require prayer and fasting, to wait upon heaven’s healing.
(5) Preach the Good News with courage. Jesus came to Earth to provide the sacrifice for the sins of man. This is the Good News. Jesus has re-opened the gates of Heaven, and he has prepared a room for each of us to live with him eternally.
(6) Shake the dust from your sandals. Those who persist in rejecting God’s truth are to be left to the consequences of their own free will. Know when to turn away.
(7) Never weary in well-doing. Whether you are Mary bathing Jesus in expensive perfumes, Martha busy serving those in need, or the priestly Peter called to “feed my sheep,” be prepared to do the work God gives you to do –to serve those he places in your path.
(8) Trust in God. Do not worry about what you shall eat or wear, or what your wages are: God will provide. Trust in that. And, even if your faith is as small as a mustard seed, it will move great mountains.
Watch for what will come: Soon the rush of the wind, flames of fire, and, when God’s appointed time arrives, we will see Jesus again, descend on a cloud. Come, thou long-expected Jesus!