These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
After Jesus had been taken up to heaven, the Apostles returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:12-14)
We still gather together in prayer with Peter and the others along with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
And when he had said this, Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (Jn 20:22-23)
Pentecost has been called the birthday of the church—in one sense it is, but Pentecost is so much more. The Gift of the Holy Spirit, the very life-breath of the Risen Lord, is a FIRE that transforms a tiny group of frightened disciples into apostles (those who are sent).
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?” It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written. (Jn 21:20-25)
We finally come to the second conclusion of the Fourth Gospel (according to John—the first conclusion is at John 20:30-31). And we have Peter’s question about the Beloved Disciple. The Lord’s response is basically, “It’s none of your business!” But the interesting part is the observation about the rumors that the Beloved Disciple would not die. My professor thought that Lazarus (not John) was the Beloved Disciple . . . and that since Lazarus had already been raised from the dead, then it would make sense of this passage about the Beloved Disciple not dying. Of course, according to the writer of the gospel, the Beloved Disciple wrote these things but had since died by the time this chapter was added to the gospel. Speculation about the Beloved Disciple’s fate is not encouraged . . . “What concern is it of yours?” Instead we are given the same command that Peter receives: “You follow me.” And of course that’s what the gospel is all about!
Today is the feast of Saint Joan of Arc who was burnt at the stake on May, 30, 1431. She was 19 years old. Her last word: “Jesus!”
Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” (Jn 21:17-19)
The three denials of Peter are countered by the three questions, "Do you love me?" in this added chapter to the Fourth Gospel (according to John). And Peter is restored to pastoral ministry. And the key words: Follow me.
May they all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that the world may believe that you sent me, says the Lord. (Jn 17:21)
Christian Unity is not optional. That we may all be one is not only the prayer of Jesus, but our unity is essential so that the world may believe.
At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood . . . . When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship. (Acts 20:28,36-38)
During the Roman Empire, Ephesus was an important capital of Western Asia Minor and a early Christian center. This passage represents the fluidity of terminology in early church ministers. Paul summons the presbyters (elders) and then refers to them as overseers (episkopoi). In a much later time these terms will no longer be interchangeable but will represent a hierarchy: bishops (epispopoi), elders (presbyteroi) and deacons (diakonoi). In the Mediterranean world, the tiny ships were the Greyhound buses of today.
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him . . . . I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.” (Jn 17: 1-2, 9-11a)
The 17th chapter of the Fourth Gospel has been called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. And it is interesting in that we get to “overhear” Jesus praying. And what a prayer! Like an Old Testament king praying for the troops before a battle, Jesus prays for the disciples. As the Letter to the Hebrews says: Jesus lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).