ACTS 2O:28-38 ; JOHN 17:11-19

Today's two readings present us with farewell scenes, both of which convey a sense of pathos.  This sentiment grows more pronounced in proportion as we take time to reflect on the circumstances in which the words we have just heard were spoken.  Saint Luke provides a lively account of Paul's last meeting with the elders of the Church of Ephesus among whom he had preached and taught for some three years.  In bringing the Gospel to them he had suffered considerably from the opposition and hostility of those Jews who had resisted his advances and then sharply opposed his teaching. He foresaw that after his departure the faithful would be subjected to serious persecution and exposed to false doctrines.  Realizing, by an inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that this was to be his final meeting with them, after giving them warning to prepare to endure persecution, Paul bids them a final farewell.  Tearfully they accompany him to his ship, realizing they were never to be consoled by his presence again.

Saint John's account of Jesus' final hours with his closest disciples evokes an even more intense, if less expressive, sense of sorrowful loss at his pending departure by death.  In this Gospel passage the Lord seeks to provide his followers with the consolation of knowing that his leaving them, when understood in faith, is a happy fulfillment for him; nor is it mere loss for his close friends.  Paradoxically, his imminent death will prove to be a condition for a fuller, more intimate union they will share with him in a future time. In the Father's mysterious plan, he informed them: "It is to your advantage that I depart, for if I do not leave, the Paraclete will not come to you." (John 16:7) The evangelist does not attempt to explain why the Father wills it so, but the mysterious plan He has formed is that His beloved Son is to return to His heavenly mode of life to abide in the divine presence.  It is in this context that our Lord gives us some insight into the workings of the Blessed Trinity by stating that "that Spirit of truth will teach you all truth.  He will not speak of Himself, but he will speak what he has heard. . . . He will glorify me because he will receive from me, and all that the Father has are mine." (cf. John 16:13-15)

Jesus, at this solemn occasion, reveals by these words to his closest associates this glimpse into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity.  Implicit in his promise of the Holy Spirit is an assurance of a communion with his followers that will continue beyond death.  As he is about to depart this world of time he provides some insight into another world in which we are implicated even now through the firm assurance he gives us that we have a share in the transcendent life that unites the three persons of the Divine Trinity.  This revelation that he shares with us is an invitation to make our own that same life that he himself shares now in glory with God his heavenly Father in the Spirit of life.  As we participate in this Eucharistic sacrifice their communion is in a real if partial measure made present within us to prepare us for our future entry into the full light of the world that is to come.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger