Saturday, June 03, 2017

You Follow Me

But when the Jews objected, I was obliged to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no accusation to make against my own nation. This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you and to speak with you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains." He remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Acts 28:19-20. 30-31

Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come?* What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” John 21:22

Father, we spend one more day in waiting for the fulfillment of the promise.  You will send to us the Spirit of truth to guide us into all truth. We await through the emptiness of today until our world is filled with the Spirit of Truth.

This has been one great, long Easter Sunday.  The fifty days from the Easter Sunday of the Resurrection (April 16) to Pentecost Sunday (June 4) are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one "great Sunday."

This sacred period of fifty days concludes tomorrow.  However, today is the last day of preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Birth Day of the church.  The weekdays from the Ascension up to and including the Saturday before Pentecost prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.  Perhaps it is fitting that the readings are from the end of Acts and the end of the Gospel of John.

The Maryknoll Fathers reminded me that “The time between Ascension and Pentecost is filled with emptiness.” These days there is no physical presence of Christ on earth in the calendar even though both are present in Scripture. The descent of the Holy Spirit has not yet occurred in the liturgical calendar. 

Yet we are still an "Easter" people.  The sun which rises in the East, bringing light, warmth and hope, is a symbol for the Christian of the rising Christ, the Son who brings light, warmth, and hope.  Jesus is the true Light of the world.  We can never be truly empty in the light of the Son. 

Even though we sense a spiritual emptiness, the Paschal Candle remains a central visible symbol of this divine light, which is Christ. It is kept near the ambo throughout Easter Time and lit for all liturgical celebrations. With its light, this Ascension-to-Pentecost emptiness is only a fraction of the emptiness felt on Holy Saturday.  Easter, after all, is a celebration first of discovered emptiness.  Until and unless we find that the tomb is empty, there is no space – physically or spiritually - for the Resurrection.

Parallel to the story of Jesus’ work after the Resurrection, this season is the season of the Acts of the Apostles.  The Easter story by its very nature includes the work to establish and build the early Church as told by St. Luke through the story of Acts of the Apostles.  As we wind down the Easter season this weekend, we are there with Paul as he arrives in Rome.  The notes in the New American Bible set the scene today:

Paul’s first act in Rome is to learn from the leaders of the Jewish community whether the Jews of Jerusalem plan to pursue their case against him before the Roman jurisdiction. He is informed that no such plan is afoot, but that the Jews of Rome have heard the Christian teaching denounced. Paul’s offer to explain it to them is readily accepted.[i]

At this point, we are at the end of Luke’s second contribution to sacred scripture.  “Although the ending of Acts may seem to be abrupt, Luke has now completed his story with the establishment of Paul and the proclamation of Christianity in Rome. Paul’s confident and unhindered proclamation of the gospel in Rome forms the climax to the story whose outline was provided in Acts 1:8 — “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…and to the ends of the earth.”[ii]

Onward we go into the Epistles. Onward we go back to Ordinary Time. Onward we go to our own Fourth Day journey.

Onward we go to fulfill the Last Commandment.  You follow me. Nothing else matters.  Not what happens to our neighbors.  Not what happens in Rome or Washington. 

You.  Follow.  Me.

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