MAY 26, 2009 – ACTS 20:17-27; JOHN 17: 1-1

 

I KNOW AS I SPEAK THESE WORDS THAT NONE OF YOU WILL EVER SEE MY FACE AGAIN. These words of Saint Paul originally addressed to the Ephesians community he had lived with and to whom he had preached the Gospel, serve well to characterize the theme of today’s liturgy. For the words of Jesus we have just heard in Saint John’s account of the Last Supper are also a farewell, expressed in the form of a prayer to the Father. Our Lord is fully aware of living through a sacred moment in his dealings with his closest followers as he prays: “I am in the world no longer, but these are in the world as I come to you.”

 

Earlier in the course of the same night the Lord is reported to have told his disciples that he was to leave, but that he would not desert them. He would find a way of remaining present and active in their midst, and, indeed, even more intimately than while he was in the flesh. By sending his Spirit he would abide within them. He stated the matter in these terms: “If I go away I will send him (the Spirit) to you. . . . He will lead you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will declare all he has heard . . . he will announce to you what he receives from me.”

 

Only after much reflection had Saint John formulated in words the message Jesus had communicated at the Last Supper, faithfully interpreting his thought and dispositions. The Church had lived through troubled days by the time he recorded his account of the Lord’s teaching. Most troubling of all were the hours when he seemed to his followers to have been taken away from them by a violent death. Even after the resurrection, with all the assurance it gave and the clarifications of his meaning that it brought, the community of his disciples were in need of reassurance to assure their fidelity for they were scattered far and wide by a persecution from their fellow Jews. This was the situation when John wrote his account with its promise that by means of his Spirit Jesus continued to be among them.

 

Our Lord’s presence takes another form after his resurrection and ascension to the Father, but remained real and active, as he had foretold in the course of this same discourse. “In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.” (John 14:20) This presence through the promised Spirit is mediated by his words. By admitting into our heart the truths in the words of Christ, we receive his very self within. “If anyone loves me he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him.“ (14:23)

 

At this season following the Lord’s return to the Father at his Ascension, we not only commemorate by means of this Eucharist his presence to us through his word and his Spirit, but celebrate his bodily presence here among us under the forms of bread and wine. Through communion he even today fulfills his promise to make his abode within us.  B the grace and strength it imparts may this sacrament contribute to that renewal of our life and of our very self that is effected by the sending of his Spirit at Pentecost that we prepare to celebrate this coming Sunday. &


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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