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A Scripture Reflection for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

by Dawn M. Nothwehr, O.S.F. | May 12, 2018

A Scripture Reflection for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 13, 2018


First Reading: Acts 1: 15-17, 20A, 20C-26

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103: 1-2, 11-12, 19-20

Second Reading: 1 John 4: 11-16

Gospel: John 17: 11B-19



When I was growing up, my parents had the custom of praying a blessing over me and my sister whenever they sent us off to encounter any significant time away from home or life event--the first day of school, a school exam, summer camp, graduation, starting college, job interviews--and later, as young adults, choices of a more personal nature. Such ritual moments were filled with great tenderness, and were a kind of handing us over to--beyond their personal power, parental wisdom, and care--the Ultimate Care of Divine Presence. We could sense that they felt they had done for and with us what was theirs to do, and they were now setting us on a path, confident we would not be beyond the reach of a loving generous God. Though the path might be somewhat difficult or circuitous, God's presence would ensure we would arrive safely home. This was not a romantic notion, but one born out of their own personal experience and faith in the God of Jesus Christ that was alive and well (most of the time) in our home and in the communities that formed our daily living.

Today's gospel allows us to join the first Christians as they overhear Jesus praying to his Father on their behalf. This prayer is indicative of both Jesus' leave-taking and his sending the disciples on into the world on a mission. His prayer is both simple and complex; asking for, recalling, and declaring several things. With great tenderness and yearning he recalls how he has guarded and protected the disciples--yet he "lost" one. He had given his listeners the Father's word, and consecrated himself so that they might be so, as well. On behalf of the disciples, He asks the Father to "keep them in your care;" that they be sustained in unity and oneness; be kept away from the evil one; and like Himself--become consecrated in truth.

And ultimately--He places the disciples into the Father's care in this world so that "they may share my joy completely"--recognizing that in so doing they will risk being hated by the world, because they "they do not belong to the world." And Jesus' final assertion speaks of his experience and a knowing-confidence, born from the experience of his own journey into holiness--"I consecrate myself for them, so that they may be consecrated in truth." But what might all of this mean for us today?

"Consecration" comes from the Latin consecrare, meaning "to make holy" and refers to the dedication of something or someone for religious purposes. A person may make a personal consecration by a self-dedication to a religious task or way of life. In § 40, one of the most beautiful sections of Vatican Council II's Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentium), we read what is often referred to as "The Call to Holiness":

The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and every one of His disciples of every condition. He Himself stands as the author and consummator of this holiness of life: "Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect."   Indeed He sent the Holy Spirit upon all people that He might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength and that they might love each other as Christ loves them.   The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons and daughters of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God's gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. They are warned by the Apostle to live "as becomes saints," and to put on "as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience," and to possess the fruit of the Spirit in holiness. Since truly we all offend in many things we all need God's mercies continually and we all must daily pray: "Forgive us our debts."

In baptism, each Christian is given the gift of God's grace and set on a life-course, a path to holiness. In his recent Apostolic Exhortation "Rejoice and Be Glad" (Gaudete et Exsultate) § 15 Pope Francis explains:

Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: "Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better". In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness. The Lord has bestowed on the Church the gifts of scripture, the sacraments, holy places, living communities, the witness of the saints and a multifaceted beauty that proceeds from God's love, "like a bride bedecked with jewels" (Is 61:10).

God did not leave us orphans, abandoned to the "evil one." In Jesus Christ we have seen God's face and experienced life-giving presence. If we remain mindful of the loving gaze of Jesus, we can grow in unity and holiness every day of our lives.


The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Dawn M. Nothwehr, O.S.F.

Erica and Harry John Family chair of Catholic Theological Ethics

M.A., Religious Studies - Maryknoll School of Theology; Maryknoll,  NY
Ph.D., Religious Studies - Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI

Dawn M. Nothwehr holds The Erica and Harry John Family Endowed Chair in Catholic Ethics at Catholic Theological Union.  The mandate of the Chair is to promote the Roman Catholic Consistent Ethic of Life, advanced by Cardinal Bernardin.  She is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis, Rochester, Minnesota.

Nothwehr’s current research explores issues of ethical normativity – especially how moral wisdom of peoples beyond the North Atlantic regions enriches and informs classical Christian ethics.  Her ongoing research engages environmental ethics through the lens of Franciscan theology, particularly the effects of global climate change on the poor.  The dialogue between religion and science, as well the ethics of power and racial justice are of equal interest. Her study attends to mutuality as a formal norm within a feminist ethics of power. Additional involvements include: the praxis of empowerment of the poor and vulnerable, moral pluralism, and relations in moral disagreement.

A Board Member of the Catholic Theology Society of America, she also was Convener of the Moral Theology section and Co-Convener of the Women’s Consultation in Constructive Theology.  In the Society of Christian Ethics she is Co-Convener of the Environmental Ethics and Theology section.  Dr. Nothwehr was listed among the top twenty-five eco-theologians in The Heartland of the U.S. by The National Council of Churches of Christ Ecojustice Programs in 2012.

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