SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER -YEAR A
The Covid-19 pandemic has interfered with countless celebrations, large and small. One of the more significant was the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day, marking the end of the war in Europe. Barely a year earlier, allied troops, including one of our recently-deceased parishioners, were poised and ready for the order to begin the long-awaited invasion of France. During the days leading up to D-Day the assembled troops knew that the fighting would be fierce and that many of them would not come home after the battle. But as dawn broke on June 6th, and they hit the beaches of Normandy, they must have wondered what they had gotten themselves into.
As we face the gradual re-opening of our states, our churches and schools, our businesses, the liturgy introduces us to people who do not know what they are getting themselves into, or – like the troops emerging from their landing craft- are just beginning to realize what they are getting themselves into.
At the Last Supper Jesus prays fervently to the Father for the Apostles who are sitting sit at table with him. From his conversational exchanges with them earlier in the evening, it is clear to Jesus that, even at the eleventh hour before his ordeal, those men still do not have a clue what he or they are getting themselves into. “I pray for the ones you have given me. I will no longer be in the world; but they will be in the world.” Within a few hours those hapless disciples will realize with overpowering horror exactly what Jesus is getting himself into; and they will react in different ways. Judas has already gotten himself into the role of betrayer, a role that will lead him to despair. Peter will get himself into the role of one who denies his Master out of fear. The others, with the exception of John, will get themselves into hiding behind locked doors. These men desperately need divine protection to get them into their roles of apostles, evangelists, and martyrs. “I have prayed for you, Simon,” Jesus has already told Peter. “So that when you turn again, you can strengthen your brothers.”
Forty days after that fateful evening, the same apostles are beginning to realize what they have gotten themselves into. They have seen the Risen Lord, who has reassured and re-commissioned them to go out and teach all nations. But, as they return from Mount Olivet, they are still not clear about their futures. So, they gather in prayer with the women, and with Jesus’ mother Mary and his family. Within a few days the Spirit will make clear to all of them what they are getting themselves into. But Jesus prays at the Last Supper not only for those present with him at table. He prays for all those who will believe in him through the apostles’ words. All of them, all over the world, all through history will have to live in the world, and the world will not always be kind to them.
St. Peter wants to alert his readers about what they are getting themselves into as Christians. “Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed, but glorify God because of the name.” But he is equally clear that everyone who glories in being a Christian can rejoice now and will rejoice exultantly.
How can any of us know what we are in for when we accept ordination to the priesthood or diaconate, exchange marriage vows, step in front of a classroom for the first time, take a first music lesson, or volunteer for one or another parish ministry? The old marriage rite sagely advised brides and bridegrooms that “the future is hidden from your eyes.” One particular couple came to a stunning realization of that truth when the priest they invited to bless their new home here in St. Gregory’s in 1990 turned out to be the altar boy who had served their Nuptial Mass in Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in 1958! On that September morning so long ago could Dorothy ever have dreamed that that altar boy would be the priest to preside at her Funeral Mass as I did six years ago? Could that altar boy ever have dreamed that he would be the pastor of this wonderful parish?
As we take the first tentative steps back toward “normality” after these last ten harrowing weeks of anxiety, heroism, bereavement and isolation, we confess that we do not know exactly what we are getting ourselves into. But we do know that, whatever it may be, God is there with us. If we pray, especially if we pray together, we may discover that the results will amaze us.
There are no upcoming events.