Seventh Sunday of Easter
"I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them." (Jn. 17:20-26)
Heartbreaking news concerning mass killings made the headlines again. Unfortunately, though, we hear stories about shootings in the streets or in our homes or of worldwide wars every day. Devastating to me is where these recent shootings occurred, one at a church, a school, and a grocery store. Please take a look at where three shootings transpired. They all happened at locations we once thought were safe places to gather. The reality is that we have no Holy Ground to stand on. Jeremiah said, "Death has come up through our windows, has entered our citadels, To cut down children in the street, young people in the squares" (Jer. 9:20).
Regardless of these unfortunate events, three crucial points encouraged me when reading today's gospel brought me comfort. Jesus first says in His prayer that He has made God's name known to the world. Through Jesus' words and deeds, He did everything to ensure that people would comprehend that God the Father sent His only Son for us to know the Light of the World. "Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (Jn. 8:12). Therefore, I find it difficult to believe that suddenly Jesus stopped preaching and doing mighty deeds to enable us to see the Light of the World, the Waymaker, a Light amid the recent shootings. We must follow Jesus on this dark path and discover His healing words.
Next, in this profound prayer, Jesus talks about God the Father's love for His son. Here one should stop and think about the depth of God's love for His son. Searching for words to ultimately describe God's love escapes me. Any analogy will fall short. We get a small glimpse of God's love for His son through our creedal statement, He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
Jesus used resurrection power from God's love to ascend to heaven. God delivered His Son from the gates of Hell, the darkness of death. Jesus is sitting next to God the Father, interceding, praying that His words and deeds will always prevail over darkness; this includes mass shootings. Think about this, St. Paul said that he wanted to "know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection and [the] sharing of his sufferings" (Phi. 3:10). If we can seize this profound plea of St. Paul, Christ will live in us. Christ will give us resurrection power to challenge political parties to act differently since doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting different results, is insanity. However, we must also challenge churches to walk with the sheep now before another hate crime or irrational behavior wounds them. We need Christ and resurrection power to strengthen the Body of Christ to stand to make a change, to see the Light of the World.
Finally, the last stanza of this prayer is challenging. We must comprehend that God loves us with the same love He showed towards Jesus so that we can be in Jesus. Wait! I know you don't want to get beaten or receive forty lashes. Neither are you standing in line, ready to get a slap or hear the words crucify him.
On the other hand, Jesus experienced this and more while trusting in God's love for Him. That love Jesus shared with God the Father is our love. Even though our present dark nights of the soul are filled with news reports and unprecedented shootings daily, God still loves us. St. Paul said, "God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rm. 5:8). With our contentions, slothfulness, and unwillingness by government and church leaders to address gun violence, Christ died for us, and His love lives in us, giving us healing. Jesus' love provides us with the chance to right the wrong in our community. That is why His prayer is for us today.
We must put our faith in this powerful prayer because Jesus is praying for us to be one. Jesus has not stopped calling us. Jesus is making His love for the Church known through His words and deeds. And although the news reports seem like a rerun, I trust that God can still "accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). We need to trust the power working within us as we accept the truth that God "has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens" (Eph. 1:3) to build a world of peace, love, and healing for hurting families through gun violence.
Let's use our spiritual blessings today to show that Jesus is still the Light of the World and healer of souls.
Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS