Jesus prays: “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” The unity of which Jesus prays is accomplished through His passion, death and resurrection. We continue to highlight this central mystery of our faith in this Easter Season.
The communion that Jesus establishes is profound. He speaks of the union of believers with other believers in terms of His being “in” the Father and the Father being “in” Him. The communion is based on love. The love God shares with us and the love we share with one another. Love is the bond of unity.
Throughout the Easter Season we have been reading the Acts of the Apostles which celebrates the faith of the early Church. The community is built on their faith in Jesus, the one sent by the Father. The expression of love is first seen in their faith and the proclamation of the faith. The apostles and disciples believe in Christ. They believe that He died for them and rose triumphant destroying the power of sin and death.
The love is so strong that they want to share it with others and indeed they did. The Gospel spread rapidly over a vast territory as many people came to witness the faith of these early disciples and came to believe themselves.
Flowing from their faith the early disciples sought to live the love they proclaimed. One way in which they did this was through their care and concern for others, especially the needy in the community. Another way was through their steadfast witness, even in times of rejection, persecution and death.
The first reading today gives us an example of this faith. The account picks up after Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin. Now the leaders are enraged by his proclamation and they begin to stone him. Stephen is rejected just as Jesus was — the disciple as the Master. Like Jesus, Stephen also loves.
The love is expressed in mercy. He says as he is being stoned, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” His witness is one of profound love. His love for Christ and his love for others, even the ones who were killing him.
The second reading for today’s liturgy is taken from the Book of Revelation. The elaborate visions that John recalls point to the ultimate triumph of Christ and the final victory. While the victory of Christ is accomplished for He is “the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end,” the faithful wait to experience the fullness of His triumph when He returns.
The words Jesus uses here speak of the fullness of his being. “Complete” is the word that comes to mind when one thinks of the images: The complete alphabet (alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet; omega is the last; in English it would be like saying “A to Z”); the complete set in a series (first and last); and the fullness of time (beginning and end).
In other words Jesus is everything. He is the fullness of life and being. Our union with him unites us with each other and moves us beyond the confines of time and space to the fullness of life eternal. The cry for Christ’s return is a reminder that all are invited to share in His victory. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let the hearer say, ‘Come.’ Let the one who thirsts come forward and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.”
The unity that Jesus established and invites us to share is one of perfection. Jesus says: “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me and that you loved them even as you loved me.”
Perfection is the state of being complete. The perfection of which Jesus speaks is the union of love. The perfect love is the love the Father has for the Son and the Son for the Father. This same love is the love that the Father has for each one of us.
Today we celebrate that love as we give thanks. We ask the Lord to allow that love to fill us with love for each other, to live that love in the care we give to each other, to profess that love through our witness to Christ and to rejoice in the life that love has given.
Msgr. Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Morrisville.