7th Sunday of Easter
05/24/2009
Readings
Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26
1 John 4:11-16
John 17:11b-19

“I sent them into the world” Christ proclaims in today’s Gospel reading (John 17:18). We can see two important points in this statement: first, that Christ sends his apostles (the word “apostle” means “one who is sent”) – they are not preaching of their own accord but by the command of Jesus. Second, Christ sends them “into the world” which means that they are not already part of it. Each of these points is vital for understanding what it means to be an apostle of Christ.

What are the apostles sent to do? Peter tells us that they are to “witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:22). In other words, they were to declare that this Jesus of Nazareth had overcome death and the cause of death, sin. In Jesus, the world now had a savior, and the apostles were to declare that to all nations (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). But why did Jesus send others to do this instead of doing it himself – why did he confine his own ministry to a short period of time and the small area of Israel? One reason is that declaring Christ’s salvation is part of the apostle’s own salvation. By bringing the Good News to others, the apostle is binding his own life to Christ’s Gospel message. In fact, St. Paul recognized that the apostle is the message: by his very life he is proclaiming the Gospel. This intertwines the life of the apostle with the life of the Lord, making him more and more into the image of Christ, our final goal.

And where is the apostle sent? “Into the world.” Christ says that his apostles do not “belong to the world” but that he does not wish them to be taken out of the world (John 17:14-15). This highlights the balancing act of every apostle: he is to be in the midst of the world preaching the Gospel without being a part of it. Surrounded by the temptations the world presents, the apostle must struggle to follow Christ’s commands while resisting the lure of the evil one. This is only possible through the protection of God, and for this Christ explicitly prays, that his apostles might be kept “from the evil one” (John 17:15). Only by grace can we live in the world and not succumb to it.

We are all called to be apostles. Our apostleship may not be preaching in foreign lands or leading the Church, but by virtue of our baptism we are not of this world, although still living in it. And Christ has sent each of us to witness to his resurrection to allow those around us who are tied to this world to hear the Good News of salvation.
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