Holy Father, keep them from the Evil One!
One of the songs used much in Church today says, “there’s joy in giving.” In his farewell address, Jesus said to his apostles that he wanted to share his joy with them to the full. And Paul, speaking from his own experience, says that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. The Lord and the apostles gave themselves to others. How far can we do this? And what a joy it would be if we could all be one!
1 Reading: ACTS 20:28-38
At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears. And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated. I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship.
Responsorial Psalm 68:29-30, 33-35a, 35bc-36ab
R. (33a) Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth. or: R. Alleluia.
Show forth, O God, your power,
the power, O God, with which you took our part;
For your temple in Jerusalem
let the kings bring you gifts. R.
You kingdoms of the earth, sing to God,
chant praise to the Lord
who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens.
Behold, his voice resounds, the voice of power:
“Confess the power of God!” R.
Over Israel is his majesty;
his power is in the skies.
Awesome in his sanctuary is God, the God of Israel;
he gives power and strength to his people. R.
Alleluia: John 17:17B, 17a
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth;
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: John 17:11b-19
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. 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.”
The responsibilities of those entrusted with pastoral care are front and center in today’s readings. It is worth the effort to review them briefly.
The exhortation of Paul to the elders of Ephesus emphasizes concern and vigilance. Any notion of indifference with reference to the needs of the flock is excluded. The leaders must be constantly alert. Such was a main characteristic of Jesus himself in John’s Gospel. One of the reasons for vigilance is to maintain the unit of the community. An essential feature of the Godhead is the unity of persons; it is also to be characteristic of the church itself.
Another quality of leadership is generosity, a giving of self without reserve. Paul indicates that he always shunned being a burden to others. He worked and provided for his own needs and those of his companions. Providing for others held primacy of place, as he quotes from an otherwise unknown saying of Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
True spiritual guidance must be rooted in a plea for heavenly assistance. Protection from evil is not solely a human endeavour; it requires assistance from God. The Christian leader must be a person of prayer.
Christianity is not an esoteric faith. It is to be brought to the world. Jesus in today’s Gospel sees mission as another aspect of responsibility. Just as Jesus was sent into the world, so too are his followers. While never surrendering to worldly values, the message of Christ is destined for the marketplace. In a special way, our daily earthly lives are to reflect our heavenly values.
We have all known Christian leaders who were men and women of vigilance, generous service, prayerful and dedicated to unity. In the last quality we often lose sight of the scandal of a divided Christianity. We may accommodate ourselves to Christian sectarianism, but we remain certain that such is not the mind of Christ. Ecumenism must remain one of our primary concerns.
As we give ourselves generously to the Christian task, let us not forget to pray for those called to leadership in the faith.
Psalm 133 says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) live in unity.” Jesus prayed that we could. Can we? Are we willing? May the Spirit give us the grace to become one. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!