Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 29, 2022)

The fragility of our lives came to the fore again this week with the horrific shootings in Texas. This time the images do not come from Europe but from our own country. The victims were children of our homeland. The attacker was one of us.

Many people use the term “insane” because the seriousness of the crime is incomprehensible. We cannot understand why something like this would happen. We try, and must continue to try, to get to the heart of these situations. Since this is not the first time a terrible shooting has happened, we had time to grapple with these questions.

Suggested answers to the question of how something like this can happen include the explanation that there are not enough gun control laws, the lack of proper detection and awareness of mental illnesses , as well as the shortcomings of our society in the fight against drug addiction.

It may be more than a single issue or combination of issues underlying the current climate that allows such an event to occur again and again – perhaps something in our culture needs to be addressed. . Saint John Paul II used the term “culture of death” as a way to describe the present day. He used this description, not as a condemnation, but as an assessment of a small but powerful set of beliefs that distort the value of human life and the meaning of life, sometimes with devastating effects.

In the midst of this unfolding tragedy and amid our debates over the causes, we look to our Good Shepherd to guide us with his light.

Our celebration of Easter continues now in this period between our observance of Ascension and the anticipation of Pentecost. These celebrations remind us that God does not distance himself from the fragility of human experience but embraces it. The creator “takes” the creature by sending his Son. Jesus is “God made man”. In his passion and death, Jesus takes on human suffering and the confrontation with evil itself. In his resurrection he proves the triumph of love and mercy.

In his ascension, he gives hope to us who pass through this life – a hope that looks forward to the eternal life promised to us in his passion, death and resurrection. It is a hope that sustains us in these very difficult and trying times. It is a hope which, while looking to the future, never forgets the saving action of God in the past, a memory which strengthens hope and grounds it in reality.

The Gospel passage of this Sunday’s liturgy recalls Jesus’ prayer to the Father for his disciples. He prays not only for the first apostles and disciples “but also for those who will believe in me by their word”.

Jesus refers to us. He, in the hours preceding his passion, prays for us. He clearly knows the heartbreak, anguish and difficulties of life. The pain and suffering he is about to endure is already evident in his mind as it rapidly approaches. And he prays for us.

Jesus prays that we be one like him and the Father are one. The union, which is a product of reconciliation, is accomplished in his passion, death and resurrection. The union for which he prays is rooted and sustained by love. God’s love for humanity, his creation, is seen in Jesus. It is this love that confronts sin and death and overcomes them in the resurrection. It is this love that sustains us in our confrontation with sin and death.

Jesus is not just talking about our union with the Father but about the communion we share with each other. There is a strength in this fellowship that becomes evident when we see love manifested in word and deed. The weaknesses of this union are also evident when love is absent, or deficient, in word and deed. So Jesus prays for us to be strengthened in love.

Jesus also prays for our “perfection”. He speaks here of “completion”. He prays for our union to be complete both with God and with each other. This union will end on his return. Jesus’ prayer for us reminds us that we are on a journey. We are not “complete” or “perfect” now, but we will be in the end; not by our merits but by his. So we look forward in hope, striving to love and forgive so that communion can be strengthened and strengthened, fueling our hope.

The communion that Jesus establishes is both strong and delicate. It is strong because of the one who establishes and sustains the union. It is delicate because the communion is made up of imperfect human beings who are capable, at the same time, of doing astonishing good or terrible evil. Today, Jesus prays for us, an eternal prayer:

“Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so that they too may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me, and I gave them the glory which you gave me, that they might be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that perfected as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them as you loved me.

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of the parish of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, in Penndel, and former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of the Séminaire Saint-Charles Borromée.