28 May 2017
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Easter 7A (RCL)
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
On this Sunday, after the Feast of the Ascension, the readings turn our attention toward Jesus’ continuing presence with the Church, and toward the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. The first letter of Peter mentions the spirit which rests on us when we are reviled for the name of Jesus. The passage from John’s Gospel speaks of Jesus’ glorification in the presence of the Father with the glory he had before the creation of the world. In Jesus’ glorification, we too are glorified, if we treasure the word Jesus has given us. God will cherish us (treasure us) in the divine name God has given to Jesus.
In the wake of yet another terrorist bombing, we might be inclined to complain to God and to demand vindication for those innocents who have died so violently. Peter warns us not to think our suffering is somehow particular and unique. Others are suffering for the sake of the name. The Bible, of course, is full of imprecatory prayers, desiring God to work evil for our enemies (Psalm 137 being a classic example). The author of 1 Peter seems to warn us against this desire for vindication. In the verses left out of this Sunday’s reading, he warns that the judgment of the world will begin with the Christian community, and if even the Christian community suffers in this way, imagine what’s in store for the unrighteous.
But, he warns, your adversary, the Devil, prowls around seeking someone to devour. It seems that the enemy here is to think that our suffering is somehow special. We are to be aware of the good (from last week’s reading), and keep in mind that God will restore, support, strengthen and establish us. We are even to rejoice in the midst of suffering.
In the passage from John, we have the beginning of Jesus’ high priestly prayer. He opens by telling God that the hour has arrived, the hour for his glorification, which in John’s Gospel is linked directly with the crucifixion. The glory of the Son is his self-gift to the Father, which glory he shared with God from before the foundation of the cosmos. Now, he is about to complete that self-gift within the framework of history. Knowing this is for us the source of the life of the ages. This is an ontology that challenges our usual understanding of what gives us our existence. We only truly are when we are caught up in the pattern of divine self-gift that characterizes the Trinity. In the framework of history, that pattern of self-gift can look like suffering, like the crucifixion, but it is precisely divine glory.
We live within a framework in which the existence of the self is to be guarded at all costs. Self-interest is the measure of all things. Power over others is seen as glory. This is the madness that attracts young men to blow themselves up seeking glory for a cause. Our ability to exercise the divine vengeance is taken as the measure of divine favor. John’s ontology completely inverts this understanding of glory. Glory is entrusting ourselves to the other, offering our very lives for the glory of the other. Jesus, in his high-priestly prayer, enters into his intercessory role on behalf of the world at the right hand of the Father. The church, in its eucharistic worship, shares in Christ’s high-priestly intercession on behalf of the world. We cherish the words Jesus has given us — to love one another as he has loved us; knowing that no one has great love than this, to entrust one’s life to one’s friends — and in turn, God will cherish us in the name God has given to Jesus.
Our vocation is to hold the victims of this bombing before God; to treasure them in the name of the Father. And to offer our lives, individual and corporate, as gift to God, rejoicing in our share of Christ’s work.