Sunday, May 29, 2022

Between Meetings & Connection

7th Sunday of Easter (C)

Readings: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 96 (97): 1-2b, 6-7, 9; Apocalypse 22: 12-14, 16-17, 20; John 17: 20-26

Picture: cc Constantin Pilavios

My dear friends, if you were asked to name just one thing that the pandemic has taught us, what would it be? For me, it’ll be the difference between meetings and connections. Over the past two years, despite movement restrictions, we’ve still been able to continue holding meetings of different kinds on digital platforms like Zoom. And yet, helpful as this has been, hasn’t the multiplication of online meetings also served to heighten our sense of disconnection… with ourselves, with others, and even with God? Don’t we see signs of  this disconnection in the rise in mental health issues among us, along with more frequent reports of arguments and fights breaking out in public spaces, including here in church?

But if technology hasn’t quite addressed our deep human need for connection, then what can? This is a question that the scriptures help us to ponder today. In the gospel, not only does Jesus connect prayerfully with his heavenly Father, he also includes in that connection, all of his disciples, both present and future. He prays that we may all be one, that we may always enjoy a deep connection with one another. And, interestingly, the Lord describes this connection in terms of being at a particular place. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am… But where exactly is this place where the Lord is?

We know that, while still on earth, Jesus was often moving from place to place. And yet, whether it was in the manger at Bethlehem or the wedding at Cana, in the Garden of Gethsemane or the Cross on Calvary, didn’t the Lord always obediently remain in the loving will of his Father, no matter the cost? And didn’t he express this love as much in the tender compassion he showed to the sick and to sinners, as in the firm correction he offered to the self-righteous?

This spiritual place, where Jesus always remained, is also where we find the main characters in the other two readings today. In the first reading, Stephen receives a vision, in which he sees heaven thrown open… and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. And this profound connection with God is experienced precisely while Stephen is walking in the footsteps of Jesus, by faithfully and lovingly proclaiming the Good News, even in the face of persecution and death.

Similarly, in the second reading, while exiled on the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel, John also receives a revelation from heaven. He too experiences a connection with God, not by sight, but through hearing. I, John, heard a voice speaking to me… And one key message that John hears, and is moved to repeat, is the call to come! The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ … Then let all who are thirsty come… To come to that same spiritual location where true connection is experienced, the place that is for us also at once a process and a person: Jesus, who is our Way and Truth and Life.

Sisters and brothers, while meetings can be held both on-site and online, true and lasting connections are enjoyed only in Christ. What will we do to remain in him today and every day?

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