This week’s liturgy is a transition from the Easter celebration of the Resurrection to the sending of the Holy Spirit on the disciples which we celebrate next Sunday. That moment empowers them to take over the work of Christ, and the readings today continue some themes from the previous weeks that show the preparation for the consecration of their ministry.
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
The idea of core of Twelve was so embedded in the choice of the Apostles- linking them as well to the twelve tribes of Israel – that the empty space left by the treachery of Judas seemed to need filling. During the time when the disciples with Mary were praying in anticipation for the promised coming of the Spirt, Peter takes over the leadership he was prepared for. He suggests the timed-honoured method of drawing lots. He lays out what he sees as the necessary background: the one chosen must have been there beside the Twelve from the preaching of John the Baptist and then been one who has witnessed the risen Jesus. That the two candidates have not mentioned in the gospel shows us how many followers of Christ were present at moments when they were not named. We know some of them were women, but in keeping with the culture of the times, they were not among the possibilities. Before the moment of their decision, the whole group prayed for guidance which they would find in the fall of the lots.
Psalm 102/103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20
The response takes up the theme of a loving God that will be spelled out in the next reading.
1 John 4:11-16
This concludes our series of readings from this Letter which has focused throughout on the theme of God’s love for us, the love of Jesus, and our sharing in this love with one another.
We continue to hear from the long farewell Jesus gives in this Gospel before he goes to his death. It foreshadows Jesus leaving the earth in his human presence which we celebrated on the feast of the Ascension. Christ in these chapters also spells how the disciples are to be when he sends them forth to continue his work.
‘True to Your name’ – as often in the Hebrew way of thinking the ‘name’ means the person, especially as used for God who’s holy name which was not to be pronounced aloud. (Jews of our time also carry out this prohibition, and the name symbolised by four consonants YHWH is not spoken.) In John, ‘true’ means more that ‘factually accurate’, it is the deepest reality, or as Andrew Greeley calls it, ‘the really real’. So that the whole phrase means attachment to the Living God, the God who the previous reading reminds us is ‘Love’.
‘The world’ has some shifts in meaning in the Gospel. In the opening words, we are told that ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son’. As it is used in these verses it has a more negative meaning: those who disregard God and God’s laws, whose wayward emotions and thoughts led to the turning over of Jesus to his death on the cross. That was a world that the faithful disciples will not belong to as Jesus did not. But they remain in or among that ‘world’ where they will, however, in Jesus’ prayer be protected from the the power of evil. To ‘consecrate’ is to be set apart to a holy role. As Jesus was consecrated to carry out the will of the Father, so his followers are to carry on in that role.
There is much comfort in Jesus’ last words, but perhaps something of a challenge to be the kind of disciples he sends forth in the ‘world’ that we are to not follow in its wayward infidelity and lack of love for others.