Saturday, May 15, 2021

Of Bands & Bonds, Presence & Absence

7th Sunday of Easter

Readings: Acts 1:15-17,20-26; Psalm 102 (103):1-2,11-12,19-20; 1 John 4:11-16; John 17:11-19

Picture: cc Jo Zimny!

My dear friends, do you know how to test the strength of a rubber band? It’s easy, right? We simply try to pull it apart. The stronger the band, the more it will resist our efforts… And can we not say the same about human relationships? Like a rubber band, these too can be tested by subjecting them to stress. For example, how does a couple respond to separation? Do they keep in touch? Or do they forget each other, and move on to new relationships? The stronger their bond, the more they will strive to somehow remain present to each other, despite being further apart. In contrast, isn’t it true that, when two people don’t care about each other, they won’t really be there for the other… even if they happen to live in the same house… or share the same bed?

Strong bonds create presence, even in absence. But weak bonds lead to absence, even when one may seem to be present… We find something similar in our readings today. On the one hand, in the first reading, we are told about how, although Judas had been a member of the college of apostles, and had shared in their ministry, he eventually betrays his Master, abandons his calling, and goes to his proper place, the place of destruction. Which indicates that, even when he was by the side of Jesus and his other companions, Judas had already allowed himself to drift apart from them. He had allowed his bonds with them to weaken. He had become absent, even if he may have seemed present.

In sharp contrast, in the gospel, on the eve of his own physical separation from his disciples, Jesus prays earnestly that his heavenly Father will keep them united to him and to one another. That they will be given the strength they need to withstand the seductive forces that threaten to tear them apart. I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one…

And there is a reason why Jesus offers his prayer out loud. Why he wants his disciples to hear his words. I say these things to share my joy with them to the full. Just before going to his Passion, Jesus prays aloud, in order to help his disciples – to help us – come to the joyful realisation that, no matter how far away he may sometimes seem to be, we always have access to the Lord. For his love always remains with us. The same love we gather here to celebrate, and will shortly separate to share with others. For God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.

Strong bonds create presence, even in absence. But weak bonds lead to absence, even when one may seem to be present… Isn’t this a timely reminder for us, as we enter yet another period of tighter Covid restrictions? When the bonds among us will be even more severely tested than usual. Our relationships with the Lord, with our own inner self, with one another, and with the rest of creation, particularly those most vulnerable.

Sisters and brothers, in the coming days, like a rubber band being pulled apart, we too will likely experience stress. What must we do to keep reinforcing our bonds today?

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