We see from the First Reading today that the Eucharist has roots which go back deep into the Old Testament. Abraham has got himself involved in a war. It seems that a group of kings had ganged up on the King of Sodom and defeated him and in the course of this battle Abraham’s nephew Lot was captured. Abraham therefore takes up arms against these rebel Kings and defeats them and rescues Lot. He then meets up with the King of Sodom to discuss affairs and it is at this point that Melchizedek makes his appearance.
Last Sunday, the feast of Pentecost, we came to the end of that great movement in our liturgy which began on Ash Wednesday. During these three months or so we commemorated and lived through the great mysteries of the culmination of Christ’s ministry—his entry in Jerusalem, the Last Supper, his trial and scourging, his death and resurrection, his ascension into heaven and the birth of the Church.
In the account of the Day of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles we note that there are a lot of strange things happening. There was the very loud sound of a powerful wind, then there were what seemed like tongues of fire descending on the heads of the disciples and finally they found that they had received the ability to speak foreign languages. These are all the kinds of things that accompany a decisive intervention of God. You will recall that at the Transfiguration a blinding light surrounded Jesus and Moses and Elijah appeared. The technical word is Theophany which means a spectacular and supernatural manifestation of God.
The Gospel text set before us today gives us one of the most fervent prayers of Christ; he prays ‘that they may all be one.’ It is a prayer that comes to mind whenever we think about the question of Christian Unity. Christ obviously does not want his Church to be disunited, but yet it clearly is.
Today we commemorate a crucial point in the story of our salvation. Christ having done all that he came to do now ascends to the Father. His great work is now handed on to his disciples to bring to completion. But this is no task that can be worked out in a few years. No, it is an undertaking that will take his followers till the very end of time to bring to its glorious conclusion
The text set before us today is part of the long speech that Jesus gave at the Last Supper after the Washing of the Feet. It is only John that gives us this speech but it is important because it includes the very heart of the teaching of Jesus.
This Sunday the Church invites us to look back at the Last Supper to the words Jesus spoke to the Apostles after Judas had left the room. The words he speaks to them are words of tenderness and affection. He calls them little children; an expression which has a very gentle and endearing tone to it. Presumably he means that in comparison to his own complete knowledge of how things really are the Apostles only have a hesitant and partial knowledge of what is actually going on.
This Sunday is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday since in each year of the Liturgical Cycle an extract from the tenth chapter of St John’s Gospel is read. This chapter gives us the teaching of Jesus to his disciples about his role as the Good Shepherd. It is a particularly wonderful image and down the centuries Christ has often been depicted in Christian art as the Good Shepherd; often he is portrayed as carrying a lamb on his shoulders or leading a flock of sheep.
The Gospel today focuses on Peter and it is a most interesting one. This particular extract is sometimes used in the ceremony of the installation of a Pope. At his installation it is solemnly read to the new Pope as a sort of warning at the start of his important new ministry.
There are two resurrection appearances by Jesus recorded in today’s Gospel. The first occurs on the very day of the resurrection itself. Jesus has already appeared in the morning to Mary Magdalene who mistook him for a gardener and then in the evening of that same day he appears to the Apostles who are hiding in a room somewhere. We are not sure if this is the same room in which they celebrated the Last Supper although it is popularly thought to be one and the same room. However, John does not actually specify which room he is talking about.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket