“Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name.” These words from THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 17: 11 – 19] are pivotal to our reflection this week. Who is it, what is it, that keeps us true to God? The parish priest does not do it, the bishop does not do it, and the Pope does not do it! Yes, all of these people have a specific role and function. They are able to make valuable contributions and often help enormously. Sometimes, however, (because like us they are sinners and limited) they can make things more difficult!

We must constantly remind ourselves that Jesus himself commended us to his Father, and the Lord’s prayer is never left unheard. As Saint Paul proclaimed: “if God is for us, who can be against us?”(ROMANS 8:31and some translations speak of God being on our side!)

Immediately we must latch on to words from TODAY’S SECOND SCRIPTURE [1 JOHN 4: 11 – 16].“Since God has loved us so much … he will live in us and his love will be complete in us.” This conviction (and it must be our conviction as well as John’s!) finds powerful expression in TODAY’S PSALM [102 or 101]. “Never forget all his blessings … the Lord has set his sway in heaven …. mighty in power, fulfilling his word.”

God. the Father who loves us, blesses us through his mighty power. He fulfills his word. Indeed, he has set his sway! He will keep us true to his name.

Keep us true …. steadfast, loyal, and committed to the Gospel, to life and its Christian living, as well as the Sacraments, and the Church (warts and all! But there IS such a thing as loyal criticism and dissent!). God fulfills his word – even in the face of suffering, frustration and disappointment – even disillusionment and anger.

Today’s Gospel extract contains other basic thoughts for reflection. Jesus says he has passed on God’s word to us, and he did not ask for us to be removed from the world(too many Christian folk try to remove themselves from the challenges of life and living) but only that we should be protected from the evil elements with which the world tempts us. It is only possible for us to be disciples IN THE WORLD! This is where we are called to be. The world is the Christian’s natural habitat. Indeed, there are parts of the world where Christians have made themselves an endangered species! God-in-Christ needs us, in fact depends on us, to be alive and active in his world. It is for this very reason that in today’s Gospel reading the Lord asked the Father to consecrate us in the truth. Do some of you remember the old Penny Catechism which told us we were made to “know, love and serve (God)IN THIS WORLD?{The fact that happiness was indicated for the next world DOES IN NO WAY indicate that we should not be joyful and happy in this one!There is, perhaps, nothing worse than a miserable, unhappy, Christian?!}

On the Third Sunday of Easter I inserted a short quote from a book by RICHARD ROHR, ofm. Another short extract appears useful. “Now that I have chosen to serve God, what does that really mean? … It isnecessary to get in theright field. … Unless you let the truth of life teach you on its own terms, unless you develop some concrete practice … you will remain in the first half of life forever which finally means that you cannot love anything or anyone at any depth.”

I find this thought very powerful. If we look carefully at the parables of Jesus, we should notice that all of them are lessons and challenges presented to us in day-to-day life situations, and against the background of God’s truth. Ultimately, God’s truth, in and to which we are consecrated by Jesus, only takes on lasting personal roots when we discover it for ourselves within the context of our lives and living.

It is interesting that THIS SUNDAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS1: 15 – 17. 20 – 26] describes the early Christian community facing their first real challenge with which life and practice presented them. Yes, they go back to God’s truth as presented in the Psalms, but then THEY MAKE DECISIONS AND ACT.

Let us not be confused by Jesus words in our Gospel verses which state “they do not belong to the world no more than I belong to the world.” This should not be taken as an escape hatch from our responsibilities. We should understand these words as referring to the MANNER AND PURPOSE OF OUR MEMBERSHIP! Never forget the basic truth that God holds sway. I must get into HIS swing of things. I must be on HIS SIDE!