sabato 12 maggio 2018

«Sanctificati in veritate»

This Sunday falls between the Ascension and Pentecost. By now Jesus has left his disciples and has come back to the Father; before ascending to heaven, he has told them to wait for the promise of the Father, that is to say, the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles tells us what the Eleven did after the ascension of Jesus: they remained in Jerusalem, namely in the upper room where Jesus had eaten the last supper with them. They were not alone; there was with them Mary, the mother of Jesus, and many others; they prayed together waiting for the fulfillment of the promise. Today’s first reading informs us of another activity the apostles did during those days. After Judas’ betrayal and suicide, there were only eleven apostles left; but Jesus had chosen twelve apostles, the same number as the twelve tribes of Israel; so there was need for someone to replace Judas. What were the requirements? “One of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us.” So, there was need of someone who had been with Jesus before and after his death. The apostles are to be witnesses of Jesus; they have to report what they saw and heard; more specifically, they are to be witnesses to his resurrection. We have heard how Judas’ successor was chosen: the apostles limit themselves to propose two names and ask God to show them which one he has chosen.

We find another reference to Judas in the gospel. Today’s gospel is taken from chapter 17 of John. It is the conclusion of the discourses delivered by Jesus during the last supper. This chapter, more than a discourse, is a prayer, the so-called “high priestly prayer.” Jesus is not addressing his disciples, but the Father, playing his role of intercessor: he prays for his disciples. Well, at a certain point, Jesus says, “When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that Scripture might be fulfilled.” Peter, in the first reading, says the same, “The Scripture had to be fulfilled.” Not only the passion of Jesus was part of God’s plan; but even his betrayal from Judas was written. And it had to be fulfilled. This does not mean that the protagonists of this tragedy were not responsible for their actions: Jesus did not suffer death unwillingly, he laid down his life voluntarily; Judas betrayed Jesus deliberately and went “to his own place,” that is to say, the place where he deserved to go. Jesus calls him “the son of destruction.”

Unlike Judas, none of the other apostles, despite their shortcomings, was lost. How come? Because Jesus protected them. Now Jesus is about to go back to the Father; that is why he entrusts his disciples to him. Jesus makes several requests for them. First, “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.” Second, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.” Third, “Consecrate them in the truth.” Jesus is leaving the world; his disciples will remain in it; he does not want them also to leave the world; indeed, he sends them into the world, even though they do not belong to the world. So they are to be protected from the dangers of the world, more specifically from the Prince of the world, the evil one. In order for them to accomplish their mission, they are to be consecrated in the truth. Which means: they should belong totally and only to God. They cannot do it on their own; God has to consecrate them. But Jesus, for his part, consecrates himself for them, “I consecrate myself for them, so that they may also be consecrated in truth (sanctificati in veritate)” It is what he does by dying on the cross. Strictly speaking, Jesus did not need to be consecrated, because he already belonged to the Father. If he consecrated himself, he did for us, so that we too might be consecrated in him.