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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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Homily for Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter, 01 June 2022, Jn 16:17:11b-19

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Today’s readings remind me of these words which have been immortalized by Shakespeare in his famous play, Romeo and Juliet.

In the first reading, St. Paul is saying a tearful goodbye to the elders of the Church of Ephesus. St. Luke recounts that the elders were so overcome by grief when Paul told them that they would probably never see his face again. He tells us that, as they escorted him to the ship, they were all weeping loudly, throwing their arms around him and kissing him.

Paul has just given what sounds like a last will and testament to them, reminding them to keep watch over the Church like a shepherd guarding the flock, preserving its unity. He warned them about two challenges to their unity: attacks from outside (from those he calls “savage wolves”) and from inside (meaning, from their own members).

For his parting word, he says to them, “Keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE.”

Up to now, we are wondering where he quoted those words from because we do not read them in any of the four Gospels! It could only mean that not all the words that Jesus had said had been successfully preserved. Maybe that is why Jesus also said earlier in the same Farewell Address, John 16:12 “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” Maybe he also meant, “I have said many things to you but you cannot recall them all. No problem, the Spirit will make sure you won’t forget.”

This is a beautiful thought as we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost this coming Sunday, the conclusion of Easter. The Holy Spirit will make sure that the memory of Jesus and his words are kept alive in the Church. And it his words alone which will preserve the unity of the Church in the face of many challenges, both the external and internal factors that Paul mentioned about in his own goodbye speech.

Take note, Jesus’ prayer for unity among his disciples was not MAY THEY BE ONE (period). Rather, his prayer was “May they be one, AS YOU AND I ARE ONE.” Meaning, may our human unity be a reflection of the divine unity (The unity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.)

Jesus’ prayer for unity reminds me of the short story written by Leo Tolstoy about the “Three Hermits”: Once there was a bishop who was on a journey and got shipwrecked. While the ship was undergoing repair, he visited a nearby island and there he met three hermits who claimed to be Christians. He asked if they could recite any Christian prayer but all they knew was a strange prayer that said, ‘THREE ARE YE, THREE ARE WE, HAVE MERCY UPON US.’ So the bishop taught them to memorize the OUR FATHER instead.

The day came for the bishop’s departure. He said goodbye to the hermits, who thanked the bishop for teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. But half way through the bishop’s journey, the captain spotted through his binoculars the same three old hermits walking in the middle of the ocean! Actually, they were running on the seawater to the direction of their ship. When the hermits reached the ship, they cried out to the bishop, “Bishop please, we forgot what follows after THY KINGDOM COME.” And the bishop, still in a shock, said, “Your own prayer will reach the Lord, O men of God. It is not for me to teach you. Pray for us sinners.”

In case you want to memorize the prayer, it says, “Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.” In other words, “May we the disciples of Christ be one, as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One.”

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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