May 23, 2020

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter


First Reading: Acts 18:23-28

Responsorial: Psalm 47:2-3, 8-9, 10

Alleluia: John 16:28

Gospel: John 16:23B-28

Today’s Gospel reading comes from Jesus’s “farewell discourse” that forms part of the longer “Last Supper discourse” that he offered to his disciples before he was betrayed. Don’t fret if in reading these passages you are confused by Jesus’s opaque references and curious turns of phrase; the disciples were no doubt confused as well. Jesus acknowledged that much of what he was telling them would only make sense in his Resurrection and in the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In the first part of today’s Johannine pericope, Jesus say: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” Jesus is referencing the fact that the disciples are still coming to grips with the fact that Jesus is truly divine. Just after the verses in today’s reading, the disciples respond to Jesus, “Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.”

At this point, the fullness of the Trinitarian mystery has not yet been revealed to them, and so they do not completely understand that Jesus is the “Son of God” in the sense of his being completely consubstantial with the Father. They still see him as something of God’s messenger or anointed one rather than the incarnate second person of the Trinity. They acknowledge that Jesus “came from God” but not that he is God. Accordingly, as Jesus notes, “until now you have not asked anything in my name.” In other words, the disciples have not prayed to Jesus as they have prayed to God.

Jesus tells them, however, that: “I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” When Jesus speaks of coming and going to the Father, he hints at the fact that he is interior to the life of God, as second person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus is not (like an angel) something created and exterior to God who is then sent by God for a particular mission.

This is why Christ can say to his disciples, “On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me.” Since Christ is the second person of the Trinity, Christ is not merely some intermediate link to the more powerful Father. Everything that is asked of Christ is automatically asked of the Father as they are co-persons of the Trinitarian reality. Yes, Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant, but we recall that he tells his disciples, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” As the Word of God, Christ is the perfect reflection of everything the Father is; thus there Christ is not merely a stepping stone to the Father.  

As the Church prepares to celebrate the Ascension tomorrow (or, depending on where you are reading this, reflecting on the fact that the Church has celebrated the Ascension this past Thursday), we are reminded that Christ has returned to his Father. Which means that his human nature has now been presented back to the Father, since Christ in his whole personhood (human and divine) ascended to the Father. This means that God and humanity are united in a way closer that was even true during the Incarnation. As such, the Holy Spirit is unleashed and is present for those who believe in Christ. Take confidence, then, that our prayers are all the more powerful because of the Ascension. Pray with boldness, knowing that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are listening.