Jesus Is All
The Seventh Sunday of Easter: April 17, 2016 (Year C)
(for dioceses that celebrate Ascension Thursday on Thursday)
How do I feel during the Gloria at Mass, when we are saying or singing the words, “You are seated at the right hand of the Father!”? Does this fill me with confidence? Does it make me feel connected with Jesus?
The Entrance Antiphon is a prayer based on a fact. The prayer is, “Lord, hear my voice when I call on you.” The fact is that Jesus is “seated at the right hand of the Father” to do just that. He has triumphed. He has entered into glory. And now this Jesus, who chose to become one of us, a member of our sinful human race; who walked and talked and slept on the ground with his disciples and said, “I do not call you servants any longer, but friends,” is there with the All High God, “seated at the right hand of the Father,” to take our part, plead our case, intercede for us and answer our prayers. He promised, “the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.”1
And so we conclude the Opening Prayer — and all our prayers — saying, “We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” This is the source and affirmation of our confidence. As the Responsorial Psalm declares, Jesus, our Lord, “is king, the most high over all the earth.”
At God’s right hand
Acts 7: 55-60 tells us that Stephen, threatened with death, had the courage to bear witness to the Gospel because, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” he looked up to heaven and “saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” As they began stoning him to death he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” This was a prayer based on a fact: the fact that Jesus is “seated at the right hand of the Father.” Prophets need this.
As “prophets,” consecrated by Baptism to bear witness to Jesus, we are in danger of being “stoned” — ridiculed, rejected, attacked — every day. Prophets base their words and actions, not on what people accept or take for granted, but on the “New Law” of Jesus. Prophets ask before every decision, not “Is this right or wrong?” but “Does this bear witness to the values taught by Jesus?” This makes prophets “different,” and people feel threatened by those who are different. That is why, if we intend to be faithful to our baptismal consecration as prophets, we must be prepared to be “martyrs.” (The word “martyr” is just the Greek word for “witness”).
There is one God:
In John 17: 20-26 Jesus prays that his followers “may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me.”
Those who truly believe that God is one cannot be divided among themselves. When we say, “We believe in one God,” we don’t mean simply that there just doesn’t happen to be any other. Monotheism is based on the recognition that if God is God — that is, the Creator and Source of all that is — there cannot be more than one. Everything that is must come from him; all that is good, true and beautiful must pre-exist in some way in him and be found in him. In other words, there is nothing “more” outside of him. In terms of value, no creature is “in addition to” God. If we have God we have All.
That is why the Great Commandment is the logical consequence of believing in one God: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”2 If God is All, there is nothing outside of God to love that adds anything to what we love in him: all that we love is found in God, and we must love God in everything and in everyone else and love all other beings “in God,” as included in him.
This is why those who see God in heaven can never turn away from him or sin. They remain free, but since they already see all truth and possess all good in God, there is nothing that could tempt them away from him, nothing to turn to that they do not already have.
And this is why those who believe that God is One should be united among themselves. If they love God as their All, then there are no other values to focus on that can divide them. If their allegiance is to God alone, they cannot give allegiance to any faction that is pursuing one limited set of values to the exclusion of others. For those who worship God as One—which necessarily means as All—any division is idolatry.
When the church in Corinth was quarreling, St. Paul wrote to them, “Each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.” And he drew the obvious conclusion: “Has Christ been divided?”
He continued, with some sarcasm, “Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.” Those who cause division are obviously not focused on God as All. They are fighting for some particular value of their own in distinction from him. Whether they are idolaters or rejecting others as idolaters, it is evident that all are not adoring God as One and submitting all they are to him. 3
Jesus prayed for his disciples, “May they all be one… as you are in me and I am in you.” If we believe God is One, we must be one with each other. If not, we are idolaters, preferring the part to the whole. 4
For Paul, Eucharist is the great sign and proof of unity. If we truly “discern the Body of the Lord” — present, not only under the signs of bread and wine on the altar, but also in all gathered around the altar who have become his true Body by Baptism — then there will be no divisions among us. Specifically, there will be no division between rich and poor. St. Paul condemns the scandal that “when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk.”
If we are concerned only about ourselves, focused on what we will “eat or drink, or wear,”5 providing for ourselves abundantly, and even to excess, while others go hungry, Paul says that when we come together, “it is not really to eat the Lord's supper.” Rather, it is to make ourselves “answerable for the Body and Blood of the Lord…. For all who eat and drink without discerning the Body—without recognizing all present as equally the Body of Christ—eat and drink judgment against themselves.”
The “Body of the Lord” that Paul has in mind here is not just Jesus in the Eucharist, but Jesus in the members of his Body on earth. We are “answerable” for the well-being of our brothers and sisters; and if we fail to provide for them as we would for Jesus himself, we are failing to recognize “the Body of the Lord.”6
Divisions and factions among Christians are a sign that we are not truly recognizing God as One; that we are in fact, whether we admit it or not, idolaters. We do not love the Lord our God as All.
In the same way, if there are rich and poor among us, this is also a sign that we are idolaters, because we let possessions become a source of division among us — separating us both from each other and from God. We take for ourselves what we deny to the Body of Christ. We provide for ourselves as if we were distinct from the rest of the Body, not recognizing that “in Christ” we are one — one as the Father is with Jesus and Jesus is with the Father.7
Any country that claims to be predominately “Christian,” but in which there is a significant and glaring difference between the rich and the poor, is Christian only in name. And when its privileged come together to worship on Sunday, they are not truly affirming in their hearts that God is One or “discerning the Body of the Lord.”
St. James asks, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith [add: “in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist”] but do not have works [that show you recognize his presence in other people]?
Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.8
But any prophet who says this likely to be stoned!
Jesus is All
In Revelation 22: 12-20 Jesus leaves no doubt that he is the infinite, eternal God: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” This is the faith that empowers prophetic stance.
2Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37.
31Corinthians 10:13; 11:19. And see Titus 3:9-11; Jude 1:1-25.
4When Jews, Christians and Muslims — who all affirm that God is One and accept the Great Commandment (the word “Islam” means “submission” to God as All) — are at war, our first question should be, “If we are willing to kill for anything or deny benefits to others until they hate us enough to kill us, do we really believe God is One?”
5See Matthew 6:25.
6See Genesis 4:9; Matthew 25:31-45; Luke 16:19-21. 7John 9:37; 10:30; 13:20; 17:11, 20-23.
Can I draw courage from knowing Jesus is “seated at the right hand of God”?
Initiative:When you take a prophetic stance, image Jesus in power and glory.