Chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, Father Gaëtan de Bodard comments on the texts of the liturgy for the 7th Sunday of Easter. In a week, it’s Pentecost: let’s pray, our eyes turned to Heaven, to receive the Holy Spirit.
This week, on Ascension Thursday, we had our eyes fixed on heaven, where Jesus entered, returned, at the end of His mission here below. And, contrary to the exhortation of the angels who invite the apostles to take their eyes off heaven and return to the cenacle, we look resolutely upwards; we give thanks for this descent of the Holy Spirit which we will celebrate on Pentecost Sunday but which is at work in our lives. Let’s face it, for us it’s easy: we know the end of the story, the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to His apostles, the outcome of this great adventure. Moreover, the Church invites us to do so through the beautiful texts of this Sunday: with Saint Stephen, we look towards Heaven, and we too have the desire to contemplate the glory of God (Acts 7, 55-60). With the psalmist, we want to exult with joy before the omnipotence, the greatness, the immensity of God (ps 96). With Saint John, we beg: “Come – come back – Lord Jesus! » (Rev 22, 12-20). It is our dearest desire: that the Lord return to our lower world, as He promised, that He draw us to Himself, that He reign over us and over the universe.
Ten days of waiting
The Gospel of this Sunday located between the Ascension and Pentecost presents to us the great prayer of unity of Jesus (Jn 17, 20-26). It is interesting to note that this passage emphasizes different elements of the three preceding texts. Let’s dwell for a moment on these common aspects. First, what is Jesus’ attitude? He is in the process of praying, says Saint John, “with his eyes raised to heaven” (v. 20). This is also the attitude of Saint Stephen when he turns to God. And us, my brothers? When we pray, do we turn towards heaven, which is the dwelling place of the Most High God, or is our prayer a monologue, a rehashing of our little worries, our little problems? To pray is to truly turn to God, to give Him a place in our life — and the first place! During these ten days of waiting, the apostles had this experience of prayer: did they not ask Jesus to send them the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit? Ten days ! Ten days, beloved brothers and sisters! Ten days of asking, begging, without getting discouraged, without giving up, without giving up. Nice example, right?
God is not a simple distributor of graces, at the snap of his fingers.
It is true that we sometimes have recourse to the novena prayer to bring our supplication before God: it is a beautiful way of uniting ourselves to the confidence of the apostles. We anchor our request in time, in length. God is not a simple distributor of graces, at the snap of his fingers. Repeated prayer, reiterated every day, trusting, allows its purification; beyond its legitimacy, its validity, it allows us to remember that what is essential is above all our gaze turned towards the sky. God watches over us, He wants our good, our holiness. It is to Him — who is at the origin of all things — that I turn to present to Him my needs, my supplications, my life. Ah! if all turned with the same confidence to God. If everyone accepted to receive from God inspiration, discernment, support, strength, graces!
Oneness with God
It is the prayer of Jesus who places in the hands of His Father the very small community of His disciples, but also those who will come after. A prayer that sees far! A prayer that does not focus on immediacy, on the “immediately, now” but which projects itself into the future. We ask for the healing of a loved one, the conversion of a friend, success in an exam. We are there immediately. And — I repeat — it is sometimes legitimate. But our ultimate goal is holiness, unity with God, just as the Father and the Son are one in love. This is what I want in absolute terms: to be holy, to live in intimacy with God, to immerse myself in His love. This is what Saint Stephen will experience in his martyrdom, the gift of everything himself, the abandonment of his earthly life to reach God through death.
The Lord’s prayer continues: may this love, which is proper to the Trinity, diffuse into the hearts of believers. This is where we call the Holy Spirit into our lives. He came in fullness at Pentecost on the apostles who immediately left to announce the Good News to all the nations; today, He asks only to give Himself, only to spread Himself again. We still have to ask Him to come down on us, on our communities, our parishes, our movements so that this love of God may be strengthened there. But also in that of men of men of good will. One week left, my brothers, to ask for the Holy Spirit in abundance and live the solemnity of Pentecost to the full. A week, then our whole life! Because it is every day, until the moment of the great Meeting that the Holy Spirit wants to give himself to us to be saints. So, resolutely, let us keep our eyes turned towards the sky, fill ourselves with this Love which asks only to give Itself and be transmitted.
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Let us pray like the apostles, our gaze turned towards Heaven
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