The Community that God Gives to Us
Wednesday, May 24th Seventh Week of Easter Gospel Reflection
They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.
There is a beautiful connection between the first reading and the Gospel. The prayer in the Gospel of John takes place prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, and is nestled neatly after all of the signs, wonders, and miracles that took place through Christ our Lord. After completing all that was necessary to prove his divinity, Jesus warned his disciples of the persecution to come. He then asked the Father to protect his apostles and consecrate them in the truth so that they would not be swayed by the world – the world that would hate them for speaking the truth.
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In the first reading, St. Paul is speaking to the presbyters (priests) of Ephesus. He is saying goodbye to them, warning them, encouraging them, and teaching them. They in turn, “weep[ed] loudly [and] threw their arms around Paul and kissed him.” This was their Bishop, a fearless man of God who was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was “as to one born abnormally . . . the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because [he] persecuted the church of God,” (1 Cor 15:8-9) yet he was called by Christ and given the power of the Holy Spirit to take the Gospel to the world. Paul then left Ephesus and was later martyred in Rome.
We too experience something akin to these moments, and for many it can be a profound witness to our own calling of establishing community and friendships as priests, prophets, and kings. Several years ago, our priest of eight years was assigned to a new parish. It was a hard time for our community, and I remember the tears during his last mass. Why was there such an attachment? Because he was a good Father, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. It was hard to let him go and watch him move on. Yet, this is exactly what happened with Jesus and with Saint Paul, and this is exactly the example that needed to be set for us as a parish community. This is what God our Father and Christ our brother expects of us. We are to build friendships and communities that are filled with the Holy Spirit. Communities that are so solidly built on truth that it truly becomes a family in and of faith.
Priests are called to set this example of community and friendship, as was first exemplified by Christ and St. Paul. As the laity, we are called to live this same mission by making our parish our family. Challenge yourself to host potlucks, reach out in friendship to your fellow parishioners, go out to eat together after Mass, or get the kids together for a play date. Even invite your priest to some of the activities! He might just say yes! Our God did not create and leave. He is actively present to all of us and sent His Son to redeem the fallen world. Christ did not come only to redeem and then to leave his new Church. We were sent the Holy Spirit to live and to love in our midst. Let the Holy Spirit into your Church family and watch as this holy family gives you the hope of the life to come.