Easter VII 2016

Can we pray, therefore, for the coming of Jesus? Can we sincerely say ‘Marana tha Come Lord Jesus!’’? Yes we can. And not only that: we must! We pray for anticipations of his world-changing presence. We pray to him in moments of personal tribulation: Come, Lord Jesus and draw my life into the presence of your kindly power. We ask him to be close to those we love or for whom we are anxious. We ask him to be present and effective in his Church. Why not ask him to send us new witnesses of his presence today, in whom he himself will come to us? And this prayer, while it is not directly focussed on the end of the world, is nevertheless a real prayer for his coming; it contains the full breadth of the prayer that he himself taught us: ‘Your kingdom come!’ Come, Lord Jesus

Pope Benedict XVI Jesus of Nazareth Part Two,  London CTS 2011: 292

The other week week I was doing my shopping in Lidl, putting my shopping up on the belt, as you do, when, all of a sudden this old lady came, walked in front of the man behind me and, without so much as a by your leave, proceeded to put her shopping on the belt. The man behind me was dumbfounded. I wanted to ask her if she wanted to go in front of me, and she carried on regardless, starting a conversation with me, it was really quite something. Clearly she couldn’t be bothered to wait, to queue, I didn’t ask her why she was in such a rush. Waiting is one of those things you love or loathe, it’s a national characteristic that we don’t like fuss and will queue and wait, an American will make a fuss, whereas the British would find such impatience awkward. We might not enjoy it, but at least we aren’t going to make a fuss about it. And yet in these days between the Ascension and Pentecost, the Church waits, waits for her Lord, and her prayer is Maranatha, ‘Come Lord Jesus’. Come Lord Jesus, fill us with your love, with your Holy Spirit, give us life in you.

The prophet Ezekiel has a vision (in Chapter 36) of a messianic future, of the restoration of  Israel, which is found in Jesus Christ and the Church. We are those sprinkled with the clean water of baptism, who have been cleansed. God gives us a new heart and puts his Spirit within us, just as he did on the day of Pentecost, so we are to live as the people of God, filled with his love, and forgiveness, and proclaiming his Truth to the world.

This Sunday in the Gospel we are in the middle of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, which is the summit of his teaching just before his arrest and Passion. Christ has made God’s name known to us, we know him in a different way, we pray to him as ‘Father’ and we are his, we are not our own, despite the Western Liberal infatuation with personal freedom, we are God’s, which affects who we are, and what we do.

Christ speaks to us, and teaches us so that our joy may be complete in him, filled with his love, and the Holy Spirit. The world’s reaction to this is a negative one: because what we are, what we stand for, and how we live as Christians is to be opposed to what the world around us stands for – selfishness, greed, which it makes into false gods, as though material wealth, or power, or status could save us – such things are transient and fleeting. It offers us a short-cut, an easy road, whereas if we are following Christ, then we are walking the way of his Passion, we are walking the Way of the Cross, dying daily to sin, and letting God’s grace be at work in and through us. It is not easy, it is difficult, most of us are unable to manage on our own, we need the love and support of the Christian community to help us, even the first Christians, those who had been with Jesus, needed each other’s help and support, so they can continue what Jesus started.

We need to be together, to meet together to pray for our needs and those of the world, and to be nourished by the word of God, the Bible, and the Sacrament of Our Lord’s Body and Blood, not because they’re something nice to do on a Sunday morning: an add-on, an optional extra that we can opt into and out of as we feel like, but because as Christians they are crucial to who and what we are, if we are to remain in the love of God then we have to live this way. Only then can we offer the world an alternative to the ways of selfishness and sin. It will hate us for doing this, it will despise us and persecute us, it will call us hypocrites when we fail to live up to the example of Jesus; but as Christians who live in the love of God we forgive each other our trespasses, so that we can live out that same radical love and forgiveness which sees Jesus die upon the Cross for love of us and all the world, this is love which can transform the world. It is a message of such love, such forgiveness that the world cannot or does not want to understand it, we may not understand it, but we know that it can be experienced, and we are living testimony to its power. It turns our lives around and sets us free to live for God and to proclaim his saving truth in our words and actions, calling the world to repentance, to turn to Christ, and to be renewed in and through Him.In his power, with His Truth, filled with His Love we can transform the world, one soul at a time.

So as we wait with the Apostles for the gift of the Holy Spirit let us pray that Christ may come, and send His Holy Spirit, that God may be at work in us, building us up, and giving us strength to live his life and to proclaim his truth, to offer the world that which it most earnestly desires, a peace, a joy and a freedom which pass human understanding, and the gift of eternal life in Christ.

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