7th Sunday of Easter B

Out of the World?

When Curtis and Kathleen Saville paddled into Antigua on June 10, 1981, they broke the 1896 record for rowing across the Atlantic by six hours. As they described it in Smithsonian, their craft “Excalibur” was a pretty sophisticated carrier; still it qualified as a row boat because it was propelled by oars and brawn. During the crossing the little boat was very much alone in the great ocean. The Savilles were pestered by the fear that Hurricane Arlene would come their way; and one day the Spanish freighter “Atlantico” almost ran them down.

Though visually and spatially cut off from people, they kept human contact by radio. However, radio newscasts proved to be a mixed blessing. The solitude of the ocean had its charms: the “wet desert” was simple, fresh, and mercifully free of crime and violence. “We listened,” they said, “to the BBC, the Voice of America – all sorts of stations. We heard when President Reagan was shot, when the Pope was shot, when the president of Bangladesh was assassinated – and sometimes wondered why we were rowing so hard to get back to civilization.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed that His Father would protect his disciples. They belonged to the world no more than He Himself did, meaning the worldly world of injustice, cruelty, violence. Still, the people in the world had to hear the truth, so he had to leave the apostles among them. As ocean voyagers have to steer towards port despite the sea’s enchantment, and astronauts have to return to earth from the stirring loneliness of space, so the Twelve had to leave the Upper Chamber and mingle again in a world of imperfect men. The important thing for all who have come close to God is that they not let the evil world again contaminate them. That is why Christ prayed for his messengers, “I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the evil one.” (John 17:15. Today’s gospel.)

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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B217: Why would the apostles use a game of chance, a form of “gambling,” to select their successors (in this case, to replace the Apostle Judas, as in Acts 1:26)? Where is God in this?

It surely does seem like an unusual way to select a Church leader! But we need to understand the cultural setting for this type of thinking that was “normal” many centuries ago. Drawing straws or flipping a coin wouldn’t fit our modern mentality when it comes to choosing presidents or popes.

There are many scriptural examples of “tossing the dice” (casting lots) to answer or solve problems, including the one in our First Reading today. They even “cast lots” for Jesus’ cloths, after he was crucified (Jn 19:24). In many cases the Old Testament shows this method was used to assign duties or take actions that did not really require investigation or special discernment (e.g., Judges 20:9; Joel 4:3).

Scripture scholar Fr. John McKenzie says that the use of “lots” in choosing a successor for Judas implies two beliefs about the office of Apostle: that the number 12 should be maintained, and that the selection of the man must come from God. Since the “candidate” disciples were already humbly living the Gospel, living in Christ, there was no need to “campaign” for the office; both were qualified by those dispositions. So the group showed that they believed in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, even by “drawing lots,” because not one of the candidates was “of the world” as our gospel today describes it (Jn 17:16). Thus the selection by lot, in the eyes of the believing community and after prayer for guidance, would indeed be “made by God” not by chance.

It would be good to check our own faith against the faith of this early community described in the Acts of Apostles. We are not suggesting an abdication of our responsibilities, nor are we avoiding the need to discern spiritual matters carefully. What we are suggesting is a greater trust in God, reflected in the way we pray and our willingness to surrender to God’s will in all things.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! It takes great humility to surrender to God daily. You will know you are humble like the saints when you cease worrying or being troubled about “things” (so Thomas Merton). Perhaps we need to be reminded that true humility is the very foundation of prayer (CCC #2559).

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Become With Us a Witness to the Resurrection

Acts describes how the apostles chose Matthias to become one with them in bearing witness to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. The epistle and the gospel tell us something about what it means to be such a witness, for we too must become witnesses to the resurrection. In 1 John, we learn that by loving one another we make visible the reality of the living Jesus. In the gospel, Jesus prays that we may live with one another in unity, the kind of loving unity that exists between the Father and the Son. He prays that by the way we live we may challenge the forces of violence, greed, manipulation and apathy that are still all too common in our world.

Father of all, open our hearts to the mystery of your Son’s resurrection. Enable us to proclaim it in everything we do. Bring the Easter mystery to perfection in our lives so that we may be more fully one in your life and love.

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