The readings today are Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; The First Psalm; the first Epistle of John 5:9-13; and the Gospel of John 17:6-19.

In one way or another, all four of these readings are about discipleship. The first is about the selection of Matthias to replace the departed Judas as a member of the 12 chosen Apostles of Christ. The psalm is about God blessing those who do His will but not blessing the ungodly. The Epistle is all about “giving witness” to the truth of eternal life through the Son of God. And the Gospel is a moving passage about Jesus praying to God the Father for Him to bless the 12 Apostles.

There are two points in the Gospel on which I’d like to focus. The first is emphasized in these passages: “And now I come to thee [the Father]; and these things I speak in the world, that they [the Apostles] might have my joy fulfilled in themselves… I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil…. As thou has sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

Note the repetition that the Apostles are supposed to engage in this world, not just to contemplate the eternal — and that, with God’s help and blessing, they are to do so joyfully. Apostleship means bearing witness; to bear witness, one must engage with and be able to communicate to those to whom one is witnessing. Apostleship, in other words, involves active and joyful participation in the warp and woof of a world that might not think it is ready for The Word. This is a mission not for mystics but for those who do the work of the Lord.

The second point comes not from these Gospel verses, but from the verse immediately after the end of this week’s selection. The very next verse, John 17:20, is crucial. Here, Jesus says: “Neither pray I for these [the immediate Apostles and Disciples] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their [the Apostles’] word.”

This is the very essence of Apostleship and discipleship: to make more apostles and disciples. This is the point of the engagement with the world as discussed earlier: To commission others both to believe in Christ’s way to eternal life and to in turn bring yet others to believe. The word, meaning Christ’s preaching and the very meaning of His life, is meant to spread, from one Apostle to another, and again, and again.

There’s a Christian folk tune, usually sung with guitar accompaniment, which has a line in the refrain worth quoting here: “That’s how it is with God’s love: Once you’ve experienced it, you’ll spread His love to everyone: You want to pass it on.”

That is our task, and that should be our joy.

 

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