May 17, 2015 (bis)
THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, Year B
(When not the Feast of the Ascension)
The Mission Continues
Inventory (Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B)
What gives me hope as I look at the Church right now? What is a sign to me that God is “ordering all things with [his] mighty arm”? In the Entrance Antiphon we declare: “My heart has prompted me to seek your face.” Where do I seek the face of Christ on earth? How can I recognize it in others?
The (alternative) Opening Prayer quoted above identifies the sign that God is “ordering all things.” His control is revealed in forward motion and development. We ask that his “presence among us” will lead the Church and the human race “to the vision of unlimited truth and unfold the beauty of [his] love.” The readings tell us the sign of God’s presence and action in the Church — the “face” that reveals him — is the unfolding reality of truth and love.
Reigning From Heaven
In Acts 1: 15-26 we see evidence that Jesus is still acting on earth, even after his ascension into heaven. Peter assumes the role Jesus had given him (Matthew 16: 17-19; John 21: 15-17) and takes responsibility for doing what has to be done. He tells the community they must elect a replacement for Judas. The Responsorial Psalm celebrates this as a sign that Jesus is alive and well and still ruling his Church from heaven: “The Lord has set his throne in heaven — his royal power rules over all” (Psalm 103). Christ’s mission continues in his Church.
Luke (the author of Acts) has Peter quoting Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 in support of replacing Judas. But there was more to it. The number of Apostles had to be brought back to twelve as a sign that, in the Church, Israel (expanded) continues as the Chosen People forever. As Nathan promised, the “Son of David” rules and will rule over God’s people until the end of time: “his throne shall be established forever” (1Chronicles 17: 11-14).
The “fullness” of the Chosen People was found in its twelve tribes, and “the Church in the New Testament is conceived as the fullness of Israel” (McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, under “Number”). In Matthew 19:28 Jesus promises his Apostles they will “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” And Revelation 21:14 describes the “New Jerusalem” as having “twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” So there had to be twelve.
United in Growth
In John 17: 11-19 Jesus asks the Father to protect his people and hold them together in unity: “protect them in your name… so that they may be one, as we are one.”
The sign that the Father is doing this and “ordering all things with [his] mighty arm” is the preservation of truth in the Church. “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.”
This is no easy task, and by doing it Jesus shows that indeed “the Lord has set his throne in heaven — his royal power rules over all.” We cannot preserve truth by freezing it in the lifeless literalism of the Biblical fundamentalists. Nor can we preserve it by restricting all inquiry to the reductionist formulae of the Catholic “magisterial” fundamentalists. Truth, like life and like love, must keep moving to survive. To stagnate is to spoil. Divine revelation is complete and incomplete; determined yet developing. It is “the unfolding of truth that already is, the unveiling of beauty that is yet to be.” We pray that God’s presence among us will lead us ‘to the vision of unlimited truth,” truth that invites “endless exploration.” We ask God to keep unfolding that “beauty ever ancient, ever new” (St. Augustine) that is the beauty of unlimited love.”
We preserve the unity of the Church, not through enforced conformity or intellectual inertia, but by growing together into the fullness of truth and love under the authority of the “Twelve,” who continue to keep the Church “one” through the guidance and government of their vicars, the bishops.
Truth becomes credible when it is lived with love. Our role as prophets is to keep discovering how the timeless truths of Christianity can and ought to “take flesh” in our time. In this way the “vision of truth” and the “beauty of love” grow together, each supporting the other. For this we must be committed to keep making changes in our life guided by the goal of making everything we say, do, have, use, buy or decide bear witness to the truth and values preached by Jesus.
The Face of God:
1John 4: 11-16 notes that “No one has ever seen God.” Nevertheless, in the Entrance Antiphon we affirmed: “My heart has prompted me to seek your face.” Where can we see the face of the invisible God?
John gives the answer: “If we love one another, God dwells in us.” Then, not only is “his love brought to perfection in us,” but so is his image. As love grows to perfection, Christ’s visible presence in the Church will “lead” all who recognize him in his body on earth to “the vision of unlimited truth and unfold the beauty of [his] love” to them.
This is the meaning and purpose of time. We said in the Opening Prayer that for God, “time is the unfolding of truth that already is, the unveiling of beauty that is yet to be.” This is what time must be for us: the span of our lives that we dedicate wholly to letting truth and love grow in us and expand throughout the world.
When do I feel most united to other believers: when we are reaffirming what we all understand and believe? Or when we are getting new insights together and being called to new ways of loving God and other people?
With confidence in Christ’s guidance, try to “bring out of your treasure what is new and what is old" (Mt. 13:52). Integrate lasting truth with new thinking.