Jesus' disciples knew the journey after his death would be difficult, but he had a clear plan.
At some point in our lives, we feel abandoned. When it happens, we ask, “What now?”
Jesus knew the fear and hurt and loss that comes with abandonment. In last week’s Gospel, as he prepared his disciples for his departure by ascension, Jesus spoke to this anxiety and fear, saying, “I will not leave you orphaned.” (John 14: 18).
In today’s Gospel we are drawn into his deeply reassuring message to his disciples. He’s saying that after he leaves, the disciples will be forever connected to him through the Holy Spirit. This connection will empower them and guide them to be his presence in the world for him.
They knew by then their journey would not be easy. They knew what the Roman Empire and religious powers did to their opposition, and they were the opposition. Thus, Jesus prayed they would always remember they were uniquely protected as they remained united in God’s love – with God, and with each other. Jesus’ mission depended on their unity, not their division, to thrive. Evil depended – and continues to depend on – dividing the Church by stirring up differences to undermine, discredit, and destroy God’s plan. Jesus prayed a prayer for their protection “so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:11).
From that day to this day the power of the Church depends on its members choosing to be one with Christ and each other In Christ. The seemingly endless ways we disagree make it hard to be Church. We need to remember Jesus’ prayer for unity in God – not in politics or any other system. We need to live like we believe it. We need to trust the Holy Spirit to guide us, challenge us, help us hold each other accountable and responsible, to encourage us, and protect us.
How do we do this? The same way the first disciples did: gather in prayer and praising God. Share the sacred companionship of faith, comfort and mutual regard. Stand with each other, hold each other, cry with each other, and rejoice with each other.
Most of all, we need to build our capacity to listen to God, to discern God’s will for us, and act accordingly, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what empowered his first disciples to be the Body of Christ; it is what has always built the Church, and so it is true for us today.