No matter its age, its literary genre or its author, each writing of the Christian Scriptures presumes its readers are carrying on Jesus’ ministry.

When any of our Sacred Authors speak of Jesus, they’re more concerned with helping their contemporary communities reflect on the risen Jesus alive and active in their midst, than they are with painting a picture of the historical Jesus who inhabited this earth for only a few years.

Each writer tries to extend Jesus beyond the limits of His pre-Resurrection existence. This common goal makes Sunday’s three liturgical readings very significant.

A new Apostle

In Acts, Luke teaches that the Holy Spirit is the force helping us understand what paths the risen Jesus wants us to explore. But Luke has to tie up an important “loose end” before the Spirit can appear: Judas’ replacement (Acts 1: 15-17, 20-26). The “old order” (the Twelve) must again be intact. Only then can the “new order” (the Spirit) arrive. (Notice: Once the Spirit comes, no one is ever chosen to replace a deceased member of the Twelve. The twelve as an institution are permitted to die out. Its biblical symbolism runs its course. It steps aside in favor of the Spirit.)

In the way Luke describes Matthias’ election, he seems to be telling his community that, after Pentecost, each Christian becomes a witness to Jesus’ Resurrection. Those who are other Christs, who have received the Spirit, no longer have to have their faith validated by pre-Pentecost structures and symbols. The Spirit makes Jesus’ Resurrection real for all who follow Him.

The author of I John shares a lot of Luke’s Spirit theology (I Jn 4: 11-16). But, as usual, he stresses the necessity of love in the life of Jesus’ disciples more than any other writer of the Christian Scriptures. It’s only through our love of one another that the Holy Spirit helps us become one with Jesus and the Father.

“If we love one another,” he writes, “God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us....God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in them.” No one has ever said it better. We carry on Jesus’ ministry by loving others as He does.

Yet, as John’s Jesus reminds us in His famous Last Supper discourse, those who work at experiencing Him beyond His earthly existence aren’t going to have an easy time of it (Jn 17: 11-19). That’s why the evangelist revolves the core of chapter 17 - Jesus’ last words before His passion - around His deep love and concern for His followers.

Oneness

“Holy Father,” Jesus prays, “keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, just as we are one.” Jesus believes the unity which His followers share will be both their source of strength in extending His work, and the greatest proof that He and His Spirit are among them. Our oneness opens the door to an existence most people never experience.

Experiencing another world is a breeze if you’re already living in that world. Experiencing that world while you are living in this world is tricky. Yet that’s what the historical Jesus did - and what the risen Jesus expects His followers to do.

“I do not ask that you [the Father] take them out of the world,” Jesus prays, “but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world....As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.”

Those who read the Christian Scriptures only to learn about the historical Jesus are using these writings for something their authors never intended. They composed their works for imitators, not historians.

(05-29-03)