My apology for the lateness of this post. I was away on retreat over the weekend and had to “play catch up.” I hope you will still find this worth reading.
If there is a unifying element to today’s scriptures, it is a vision of Jesus, our ascended Lord, in the glory of heaven, a glory in which we aspire to participate in.
The first reading — Acts 7:55-60 — despite telling of an event which took place several years after the Ascension, has an indirect reference to it. Stephen is being killed for his vigorous defense of the Messiahship of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. That defense culminates in the words quoted here. What Stephen sees, Jesus standing at God’s right hand, is Jesus after he has ascended to heaven. So we can say that the immediate occasion of Stephen’s martyrdom is that he proclaimed the Ascension. We should also note that his dying words parallel some of Jesus’ last words, and that the passage introduces Saul, who will later change his name to Paul and change from a persecutor of Christians to a great apostle.
The responsorial psalm — Ps 97:1-2, 6-7, 9 with refrain drawn from verses 1 and 9 — draws us to consider God’s universal kingship. The words “heavens,” “Most High over all the earth,” and “exalted” give imagery which calls to mind the Ascension.
The second reading — Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20 — concludes our series of readings from Revelation with the final scene of the book. Jesus promises to return and bring us the proper recompense for our deeds. We are encouraged to accept the salvation offered by Jesus so we can join the inhabitants of the city which was described on the fifth and sixth Sundays. We do this by “washing our robes.” On the fourth Sunday, this washing was said to be in the blood of the Lamb. The washing can be taken as an allusion to Baptism, and the Blood of the Lamb as an allusion to the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, where he gives his Blood, shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. The holy Spirit and the Church (the Bride) long for the return of ur ascended Lord.
The gospel — John 17:20-26 — is taken from Jesus’ “high priestly prayer” at the Last Supper. Jesus is praying in the light of his coming death, resurrection, and return to the Father. Jesus prays that Christians throughout the ages will come to see his glory in heaven. He prays for the spread of faith in him, which requires the unity of believers in love. It’s all about love, and, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we should realize that the love which we are called to is a love which expresses itself in works of mercy.