Ps. 68:1-10 (ant. 32); Acts 1:12-26; 1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
Glorified, “I am praying…for those whom You have given me, for they are Yours. All mine are Yours, and Yours are mine, and I am glorified in them… [T]hey are in the world, and I Am coming to you. Holy Father keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (vv. 9-11).
Jesus prays for his glory as High Priest before the Father (Jn. 17:1-5); then for the unity and fidelity of his apostolic brothers on whom his church will be built (vv. 6-19); and finally, for a future baptized priesthood of believers (vv. 20-26).
Three days ago, we celebrated Jesus’ Ascension for revealing new sight of the Father’s sacrificial heart and love toward men lost in sin.
Today is the final Sunday of Easter urging us to exercise our new sight. You are aware that the feast of the Resurrection is not a discrete day, one Sunday among many; rather it is the church’s three-day fountainhead, marking a shift away from old temporal things to the new things of heaven’s eternity.
Easter begins Holy Thursday as a unitive three-day Service, Jesus instituting his Supper and instructing his Apostles in their intimate oneness with him, and each other, in the Bread and the Cup. The Service does not end; it pauses to receive the atoning cross on Good Friday; then awaits in vigil the Resurrection on Easter morn.
Holy Thursday’s instituted Sacrament was effectuated on Good Friday and actualized in the Resurrection, a single reality. This is the church’s Easter Triduum that orients the church throughout her seven Sundays of Easter.
To employ our new sightedness, it is only necessary to overlay this morning’s mass of word and Sacrament upon its historical fountainhead, the Triduum sequence.
Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer is a consecration (v. 19), even as we this morning consecrate the Host and Cup by prayer and words of Institution. Grasping our mass’ interleaved participation with the Jesus’ historic Triduum, the union which Jesus prayed for comes into view; union with God’s High Priest as we shift into heaven’s eternity. Thus, St. John reports his vision of heavenly things in mass on Patmos, saying, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…” (Rev. 1:10a).
By the “enlightened eyes of your heart” (Eph. 1:18) we see Eucharistic unity of Christ with the Father as their mutual glory; and so also, our union with Christ in apostolic belief and practice glorifying Jesus (Jn. 17:10b). In Eucharist, we join Jesus, our High Priest before the Father, fulfilling his command to “love one another” as Jesus sacrificially loved us (Jn. 13:34; 15:12, 17).
Today, Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…” (17:1). The “glory” to which Jesus refers, is the beginning of his ascension and exultation to the Father on the cross. It is as if Jesus, having established his Supper for the forgiveness of sin, consents to a “glory”, that says, “Crucify me!”. This is the heart of Isaac, that Jesus lays down his life for the sin of the world, trusting his Father’s heart and will.
But what does Jesus mean, when he prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (v. 5)? This is the crux of the Ascension forty days following Jesus’ Resurrection; a return to the Father in the “glory” with the Father before the world existed; only now as a Man.
Consider Lazarus at the rich man’s gate (Luke 16:19 ff.). The account is not parable; rather a picture of Jesus, who in the world experienced naught, but sin and rejection. On Lazarus’ death angels escorted him to “en arche”, “the beginning Place”, the “Bosom of father Abraham”, all cyphers for God. To complete the church’s picture glorifying Jesus, we look no further than Holy Thursday’s Supper where the “disciple whom Jesus loved” rested his head on our Lord’s breast at table (Jn. 13:23).
Still Jesus’ foot-washing during the Supper reminds that sin is always “crouching at the [church’s] door” (Gen. 4:5). Of this, St. Peter would preach on Judas’s unbelief, betrayal, and suicidal breach of apostolic unity in going to “a place of his own” (Acts 1:16-19, 25).
Following the Ascension, the church immediately recognized, as successors to the twelve OT tribes, the necessity of her unified witness in faith and practice. The Apostles called Matthias to replace Judas in anticipation of the Lord’s coming promise of the HS to the entire Church.
The office of Apostle represents the NT church in her completeness, faithful witnesses in delivery and remembrance of her Eucharistic Bread and Cup established in the first of the Triduum sequence.
Thursday’s Ascension of our Lord is a churchly event by which the man, Jesus is present to his church in word and Sacrament, so too with the Father in his “dwelling Place” of our worship; his Son’s flesh, in whom we ascend to our goal, his Father and ours (Jn. 20:17).
From time to time we sin; but the church’s fidelity provides word and Eucharist antidote, keeping us alive in the way God has established; our one-time Baptism, periodic foot-cleansing (Holy Absolution) by which we remain faithful, manifesting unity to the world proclaiming Eucharistic fidelity to the cross of Christ.
Eucharistic witness with Jesus’ apostolic band expects persecution and suffering, which St. Peter would have us embrace, saying “the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Pet. 5:9) glorifying the Lord in the bond of priestly unity. Amen.