27 May 2020

As we discussed on 23 March 2020, reading the Bible might be a good way of reflecting each day during this pandemic. Why not pick up the Bible today and start reading from Chapter 1? Or, you could try reading a passage of the New Testament each day? Alternatively, you can try taking a short passage of Scripture and pondering it.

Throughout its 800 years, Carmelite spirituality has placed a particularly strong emphasis on pondering Scripture and is called Lectio Divina. This is the Latin for 'Holy Reading' and was a form and approach to praying with Scripture that was common among medieval religious orders. Essentially Lectio Divina involves taking a short passage of Scripture and pondering it. This can be done alone and normally involves prolonged periods of silence.

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God,
Your Son Jesus gave himself totally
to those He loved - that is, to all.
Give us a share of His unselfish love
that we too may learn from experience
that there is more joy in giving ourselves
than in receiving honours or favours.
May the Spirit make us also so much one
that we graciously share with one another
our God-given riches and gifts as people.
We ask You this through Christ our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 17:11b-19

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: "Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth."

3) Reflection

• We are now in the Novena of Pentecost, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given only to those who ask for it in prayer (Lk 11:13). In the Cenacle, for nine days, from the Ascension to Pentecost, the Apostles persevered in prayer together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14), and they obtained the abundance of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). Today’s Gospel continues to place before us the Priestly Prayer of Jesus. It is a very opportune text to prepare ourselves during these days for the coming of the Holy Spirit in our life.

• John 17:11b-12: Keep them in Your name! Jesus channels His concern into prayer: “Keep those You have given Me true to Your name, so that they may be one like Us!” Everything which Jesus does in His life, He does in the Name of God. Jesus is the manifestation of the Name of God. The Name of God is Yahweh, JHWH. In the time of Jesus, this name was pronounced saying,  “Adonai,”  “Kyrios,”  “Lord.” In the discourse of Pentecost, Peter says that Jesus, because of His Resurrection, was constituted Lord: “For this reason the whole House of Israel can be certain that the Lord and Christ whom God has made is this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36). And Paul says that this has been done so that “every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God, the Father” (Phil 2:11). It is the Name which is above all other names” (Phil 2:9). JHWH or Yahweh, the Name of God, took on a concrete face in Jesus of Nazareth! Unity has to form around this name: keep those you have given Me true to Your name so that they may be one like We are. Jesus wants the unity of the communities in such a way that they can resist the world which hates them and persecutes them. The people united around the name of Jesus will never be conquered!

• John 17:13-16: That they may share My joy to the full. Jesus is bidding farewell. In a short time He will go away. The disciples continue in the world. They will be persecuted and be afflicted. Because of this, they are sad. Jesus prays that their joy may be full. They want to continue to be in the world without being of, or belonging to, the world. This means to live in the system of the Empire, whether liberal or Roman, without allowing themselves to be contaminated. Like Jesus, and with Jesus, they should live in the opposite direction of the world.

• John 17:17-19: As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world. Jesus asks that they be consecrated in truth. That is, that they may be capable of dedicating their whole life to giving witness of their convictions concerning Jesus and God the Father. Jesus sanctified Himself in the measure in which, during His life, He revealed the Father. He asks that the disciples enter into the same process of sanctification. Their mission is the same as Jesus’ mission. They sanctify themselves in the measure in which, living in love, they reveal Jesus and the Father. To sanctify oneself means to become human like Jesus. Pope Leo the Great said, “Jesus was so human, but so human, as only God can be human.” For this reason we should live in opposition to the world, because the system of the world dehumanizes human life and renders it contrary to the intentions of the Creator.

4) For Personal consideration:

• Jesus lived in the world, but was not of the world. He lived contrary to the system, and because of this, He was persecuted and was condemned to death.  Do I live contrary to today’s system, or do I adapt my faith to the system?

What words and actions do I show that I belong to the world or don’t belong to the world? Am I showing a little of both?

• Preparation for Pentecost. To invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who gave courage to Jesus. In this Novena of preparation for Pentecost, it is good to dedicate some time to asking for the gift of the Spirit of Jesus.

5) Concluding Prayer

I bless Yahweh who is my counsellor,
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep Yahweh before me always,
for with Him at my right hand, nothing can shake me.
(Ps 16:7-8)