7th Sunday of Easter
Acts 1: 15 – 17, 20a, 20c – 26; Ps 103; 1 John 4: 11 – 16; John 17: 11b – 19
The place is the upper room, the occasion is the Last Supper; Jesus had touched each of His disciples by washing their feet and now He touched them even more profoundly with His parting words. The words are very personal, not addressed to them directly – they are privileged listeners – Jesus prays to His Father, He raises His eyes to heaven and He prays most reverently and sincerely; “Holy Father, keep them in Your name that You gave given me…”
That one word, that sacred title “Father” defines all of Jesus life – His first words recorded in St. Luke: “Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s House?” and His last: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit”are like bookends that speak of a whole life embraced by, consecrated to, delighted in, directed by the One called Father – a relationship of love so profound that is beyond our understanding.
Jesus Himself said, “I can only do what I see the Father doing”… “I can only say what I hear the Father saying”… “The Father and I are one”… “When you pray, say ‘Our Father’.” You and I have been baptized into this divine relationship and so we speak not of something theoretical but of reality. We are by Baptism sons and daughters in Christ, The Son – and the Father is truly our Father. Should not this relationship also define our lives? Should not our lives express this bond in how we live? Surely, the answer is “Yes!”
What does that title “Father”, the one Jesus expressed so often – what does that mean to me, to you – what does it signify, reveal, say to each of us personally? Someone has written that, for our faith to mean anything we need to ponder on its truth, in this case we need to ponder on the word “Father”, to chew it over, to ruminate on the basis of our own experience of life. To spend time with the word, the image, the title and allow ourselves to pause in wonder.
I share an experience that led me to see something of the Father. When I was 10 (ancient history now) coming to my 11th birthday, more than anything else in the whole world – more than eternal life! – I desired a bike! Not just any bike but the one in a store window downtown (Allentown, Pa) – it was a red, white and blue Shelby Flyer with a headlight (basket and horn not included). And on my birthday my Mom took me to our garage and there, in all is splendor, was the red, white and blue Shelby Flyer. Heaven on earth! There was one problem – I had never ridden a bike! So my Dad took me and the bike to a park nearby and in the parking lot, he helped me get on, gave me a push and I fell off the bike – unhurt, I got back on, he gave me a push and I stayed on, it was glorious…stopping was another problem – there were no hand brakes – you had to push back against the pedal – another fall but I had my balance – never to be lost.
What does all this have to do with God as Father, you might be thinking? Years later my Dad and I were recounting that life-changing experience in the parking lot in Jordan Park and he revealed to me that he had never ridden a bike but he knew that with a good push and a bit of luck, once I got my balance, I was a bike-rider.
And years later I came to see that what my Dad did is an insight into how God acts. God gifts us, He motivates us, He gives us a push but He does not live our lives for us anymore than my Dad lived my life for me – the Shelby Flyer was not a two-seater! God puts His trust in us just as my Dad put his trust in me and my balance.
Why not today or some day, take time to ponder on your own life – was there a person who without knowing it gave you a taste of the Father’s love, left you with an experience of His goodness, providence, mercy. It could a person you least expect, it could be a situation as simple as learning to ride a bike. Before His listening disciples Jesus prayed, “Holy Father…” and in that prayer He was revealing the Father, He was giving them a taste of the Father’s love.
Why not today spend some time in prayer, in your own words ask the Father to reveal Himself to you, to show you ways in the past that He has done just that– as your/my Father in Christ – He will not refuse. Listen to Jesus’ words: “The one who asks, receives. The one who seeks, finds…If you with all your sins know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to anyone who asks Him!” (Mt 7: 8ff) We are that “anyone”!