Scripture notes – 7th Sunday of Easter Year B – 12th May 2024

The liturgy is a transition from the Easter celebration of the Resurrection to the sending of the Holy Spirit on the disciples which we will 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 their preparation for that change.

The readings are available online here.

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
The idea of a 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 Spirit, Peter takes the leadership. Before the moment of their decision, the whole group prayed for guidance which they expected to find in the timed-honoured method of drawing lots. Peter 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. The two candidates have not been mentioned before in the gospel – and Matthias is never mentioned again. This shows how many followers of Christ were present at moments when they were not named, and as well how many ‘saints’ there were whose histories we do not know. And in our times too, perhaps we don’t notice all the faithful, unspectacular Christians who carry on following Jesus in whatever way they can. We know many of the first disciples were women, but in keeping with the culture of the times, they were not among the possible replacements, and women are often too overlooked in the present when we talk about ‘the Church’.

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. With further examples of how God’s love and our response to that, it concludes with the definition: God IS love.

John 17:11-19
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, whose holy name 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. We generally follow their custom of saying instead ‘The Lord’.) 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 shifting meaning in the Gospel. In the opening words of this Gospel, we are told that ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son’. As it is used in today’s 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 secular world that the faithful disciples do not belong to as Jesus did not. While they remain in or among those who are part that ‘world’, they will, however, in Jesus’ prayer be protected from the powers 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 consecrated to carry on in service to God and all people.

There is another ‘world’ we live in – our planet with all the abundance of creation that God ‘found good’ (Genesis chapter 1) The bishops have asked us during the time between Ascension and Pentecost to pray for our currently endangered environment with man-made pollution and destruction. John had a vision of a ‘new heaven and earth’ (Apocalypse/Revelation 21:1) and our prayer can be for that redemption to begin now in our beautiful and awe-inspiring natural world.

Joan Griffith

Suggestions for prayer or reflection:

‘May they be one as we are one.’ As with many of Jesus’ prayers and promises, this seems almost impossible for us to achieve – or even imagine. What does unity in your community look like now? What vision do you have for love and unity with your community?

Gwen Griffith-Dickson