Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: "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, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.
It’s exciting to be in on the ground floor of any new organization. The enthusiasm and fervor of the founders of a business, a social agency or even a parish committee can be contagious. I’ve had that experience, along with the unexpected challenges that come with any new beginnings.
We see that same experience happening in a rather dramatic way in our first reading today, continuing our Easter accounts of the early Church. The death of the first martyr, Stephen, must have been both frightening and galvanizing for the first Christians. Luke wants us to see the parallels with Jesus’ own death. The Church was beginning to realize the reality of what taking up the cross would mean. Were they ready? Could they stand firm in the face of persecution?
The early Church must have taken heart from what John describes in the Gospel today: the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper. Here, the Lord prays for those who will have to be “in the world.” They are one with Jesus and with the Father. They can expect that the world will not accept them, even as they witness to Jesus there. But they carry the promise of Jesus, that his love will be in them. And so the apostles, those who would come after them, and we here today, are to take courage—in the face of any challenge, however great, however overwhelming—even persecution and death itself.
According to the first reading, why did the members of the Jewish leadership want to kill Stephen? What did he do to deserve the penalty of death?
What did Stephen say just before he died? Who said that same thing when he was crucified?
In this week's second reading, we are told that John heard a voice saying “Behold I am coming soon” and “I am the beginning and the end.” Who was speaking?
The last words of the book of Revelation are “Amen! Come Lord Jesus!” Who says that?
The Gospel reading is the prayer of Jesus. Who was he praying for?
Jesus prays that all believers may be one, just as He and his Father are one. How are believers doing today? Are we all one, like Jesus and his Father?
by Susan Hines-Brigger
Live out the Gospel message by doing at least one good deed this week. That could be something like volunteering or just spending time with someone whom you normally don't interact, such as a fellow classmate.
Jesus expresses hope "that they may all be one." Find ways to help make that happen. For instance, take the time to learn about another religion or culture. Knowledge is the key to understanding.