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The spiritual reality of God in our lives

A reflection on the 7th Sunday of Easter

First reading: Acts 7:55-60

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep.

Second Reading: Apocalypse 22:12-14, 16-17, 20

I, John, heard a voice speaking to me: ‘Very soon now, I shall be with you again, bringing the reward to be given to every man according to what he deserves. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who will have washed their robes clean, so that they will have the right to feed on the tree of life and can come through the gates into the city.’

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to make these revelations to you for the sake of the churches. I am of David’s line, the root of David and the bright star of the morning.

The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ Let everyone who listens answer, ‘Come.’ Then let all who are thirsty come: all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free.

The one who guarantees these revelations repeats his promise: I shall indeed be with you soon. Amen; come, Lord Jesus.

Gospel: John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one.

With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realise that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see the glory you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Father, Righteous One, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them.’


The will of the Father, as spoken by the Son

This week’s Gospel reading is one of the most beautiful prayers of Jesus that we could ever hear. The prayer is an intimate one, from Jesus to his Father, bringing to mind the unity of the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, all equal and all One God, are communicating with one other. In this, Jesus speaks of his will for his Church. He prays not only for the apostles and disciples of his day, but for the followers who will come to believe in the Gospel through these disciples and their successors preaching the word of God, which is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The prayer contains two truths: first that the Church will grow through the witnesses of Christ spreading the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the completeness and unity that the body of Christ needs in this life, and the life of the world to come. All this, so that we may know the Father, which was, and probably still is, the longing of the entire Church.

The Knowledge of Jesus is spiritual, not physical

Knowing God is neither a physical nor a cognitive matter. Jesus speaks of himself being in the Father, and the Father being in him, and he being in us. With that, we have in our hearts the Kingdom of God. We are spiritually united with God, that we may truly know Him and his glory and bring to completeness the will and the mission of Jesus.

The first reading for this week takes us to the end of St Stephen’s rather long discourse, where he admonishes the people of Israel for their constant rebellion against God, their refusal to listen to the Holy Spirit, and finally, crucifying the one sent to save them. Amidst all of this, the Holy Spirit opens his eyes to the spiritual reality that is the glory of God and the Son of God sitting at his Father’s right hand. Jesus reveals himself in that moment, present in the heart of St Stephen who then accepts God’s will for his martyrdom.

At that point, the Jews, angry at St Stephen’s words, takes him out of the city to be stoned. Still filled with the Holy Spirit, he manages a last invocation of God, to ask that the Father receive his spirit and forgive those who would kill him, just as Jesus prayed at his crucifixion.

A spiritual reality that remains today

In the second reading, Jesus speaks to St John, his beloved, in a vision: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who will have washed their robes clean, so that they will have the right to feed on the tree of life and can come through the gates into the city.

Jesus speaks to John, telling him about the promise of paradise, which for some of us, may be hard to visualise or truly accept as a present reality. Jesus presents this in familiar themes: a garden and a city. He mentions the tree of life, which we read of in the book of Genesis as existing in the garden of Eden, where souls are conferred eternal life.

However, our present earthly reality looks nowhere near the standard of perfect harmony, unity and love that God’s children are called to. We need help to enter the new city of God, the new Jerusalem. St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort speaks of Mary’s role in leading us to the tree of life, to the living waters of grace offered by her son, Jesus: “Mary alone gives to the unfortunate children of unfaithful Eve entry into that earthly paradise where they may walk pleasantly with God and be safely hidden from their enemies. There they can feed without fear of death on the delicious fruit of the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They can drink copiously the heavenly waters of that beauteous fountain which gushes forth in such abundance (TD 45).”

May Mary remind us always of the presence of God in our lives and lead us to her Son!

Reflection Questions

· How much are we aware of the presence of God in our lives?

· Have we sought the help of Mary to be closer to God in this life?

Brian Ooi, Montfortian Gabrielite Associates


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