Gospel – John 17:11b-19

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”


Reflection on the Gospel

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

Jesus bids his followers goodbye and is “taken up.” I began this reflection the day Stephen Hawking died. People listen to what famous scientists think about supernatural phenomena. As I understand it, he finally rejected them unequivocally. His enthusiastic audience for serious cosmology illustrates a current predicament for religion. First about the Ascension: consulting the commentaries, I find that a major trend in Christology combines Jesus’ going up with the Resurrection. The commentaries say almost nothing about a physical ascension. Being ‘taken up,’ the transfigured god and man becomes Christ in Majesty. Jesus’ departure would have been his followers’ growing insight about what had happened from Palm Sunday on, not a visible event. Meanwhile the Creed says “ascended into heaven.” Partly owing to such disconnects, each one increasingly believes an individually made synthesis. Theologians, exegetes and others have equipment for the task. People in the pews, or not in them, sense the need but lack some tools. Not everyone endorses this state of affairs, if I have described it correctly. One undesirable outcome would result in a sophisticated Christology for a few, and a simpler version for the commoners. But isn’t that what we long had? For centuries the idea prevailed that ordinary people could not make sense of scripture by themselves. Doctrines contained complexities best left to specialists. The people’s role consisted of faithfully observing rituals and practices. The rituals are vital. People, however, also want to think. Well educated and exposed to diverse perspectives, engaged persons can handle an exegesis of the Ascension story. People who read Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time in school may like to discuss how scientific truth and religious truth interact. In these turbulent times, people have moved in myriad directions. I’m thinking here of those who drifted away when experiencing a lack of intellectual substance and those who stayed on determined to investigate their religion. Both these seekers want help in their search, not a picture book of the destination. Those who educated new generations during the past fifty years shaped this climate. They deserve thanks. A cadre of Christians who consider themselves “social justice Christians” put many contentious doctrinal questions on the shelf and help their neighbor. Augustine made these pertinent observations fitting for this solemnity: “Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.”

Brother Charles O’Connell, FSC

Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Catholic University, Br. Charles earned graduate degrees from Syracuse University and NYU, and has taught at St. John’s College High School, CBA-Syracuse, Manhattan College; and La Salle Academy-NYC. Disabled by the long term effects of polio, he now resides at De La Salle Hall.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.