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Thoughts from the Early Church
Seventh Sunday of Easter B
May 20, 2012

Reading I: Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26
Responsorial Psalm: 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20
Reading II: 1 John 4:11-16
Gospel: John 17:11b-19

Commentary: Guerric of Igny

Father, may they all be one in us.

"Father, while I was with them I kept them in your name." This was the prayer our Lord made on the eve of his passion. But it would not be inappropriate to apply it to the day of the ascension, when he was about to leave his disciples and entrust them to the Father.

He who in heaven directs and governs the hosts of angels created by himself had chosen a small group of his disciples as his associates on earth. These he would instruct in person until the time when their hearts were sufficiently opened to be led by the Spirit. And so, great God that he was, Christ loved these little ones with a love worthy of his greatness.

Having withdrawn them from secular pursuits, he knew they had abandoned all worldly ambitions and now relied on him alone. But as long as he shared their mortal way of life he did not lightly lavish on them marks of his affection; his manner toward them was grave rather than tender, as was fitting for a master and a father.

Now, however, when the moment was at hand for him to leave his disciples, he seemed overwhelmed by the depth of his affection for them, and unable to disguise the overflowing tenderness which until then he had hidden from them.

Hence the words of the evangelist: "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." He laid bare the whole strength of his love for his friends, before pouring himself out like water for his enemies. Handing over to them the sacrament of his body and blood, he instituted the celebration of the eucharist.

It is hard to say which was the more wonderful, his power or his love, in devising this new means of remaining with them, to console them for his departure. In spite of the withdrawal of his bodily presence, he would remain not only with them but in them, by virtue of this sacrament.

It was at that moment that he commended them to his Father. Eyes raised to heaven, he said: "Father, while I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition. And now I am coming to you. Keep those you have given me in your name. I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one."

Much more he went on to say; but the whole of his prayer can be summarized in these three petitions, which are themselves a summary of salvation, namely that the disciples should be kept from evil, sanctified in truth, and glorified with Christ.

"Father," he said,"I desire that they too, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory." Happy those who have their judge for their advocate, pleading for them even while he must be adored with as much honor as the one to whom he addresses his prayers!

The Father will not refuse the desire expressed by his lips, for he shares with him one single will and one single power, since God is one. All is bound to be accomplished that is requested by Christ, whose word is all-powerful and whose will is wholly efficacious.

Of everything which exists, he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood forth. And now he says: "I desire that where I am, they too may be with me."

What certainty for believers! Not to the apostles only, or to their companions, is this assurance offered, but to all those who through their word will believe in the Word of God: "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who through their word will believe in me."

(Sermon on the Ascension 1-2: PL 185, 153-55)

Guerric of Igny (c. 1070/80-1157), about whose early life little is known, probably received his education at the cathedral school of Tournai, perhaps under the influence of Odo of Cambrai (1087-92). He seems to have lived a retired life of prayer and study near the cathedral of Tournai. He paid a visit to Clairvaux to consult Saint Bernard, and is mentioned by him as a novice in a letter to Ogerius in 1125/1256. He became abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Igny, in the diocese of Rheims in 1138. A collection of fifty-four authentic sermons preached on Sundays and feast days have been edited. Guerric’s spirituality was influenced by Origen.

Edith Barnecut, O. S. B. As a consultant for the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, Sr. Edith was responsible for the final version of many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Copyright © 1993, New City Press.
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Journey with the Fathers
Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels
- Year B, pp. 58-59.

Edith Barnecut, O. S. B., ed.
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