He was clearly not himself: his blue eyes were flat, his gregarious tone subdued. Still, he trudged through the school day with quiet determination, taking his assigned turn at lunch and reassuring himself that “we will be okay”. Death had invaded his family, and his adolescent heart was breaking. Not for himself. For his grandmother who lost her daughter. For his father who lost a sister. Then, maybe, for himself. But it was his “we”, his sense of “we will be okay” that speaks to this moment.
It is the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Ascension Thursday has slipped past, that moment which marks the last of the real visibility of Jesus in human experience. It was a celebration, the Ascension into heaven, and a simultaneous loss beyond compare. In the tumult of that time, there was the reassurance of continuity of convictions, connections, and purpose. Matthias is chosen to complete the team of leaders, to share the mission and to go on, to move forward. Theirs was a group that shared a “we”, belonging to one another as much as to God.
The second reading expands that dramatically. There is a glimpse of the mystery surrounding God, a candid admission that no one has ever seen God. Here, God is equated with love, defined as love. God is relational, personal, connected to each individual in the mysteries of love. Love is sacred beyond telling. There is nothing more potent, more meaningful. And the uniqueness of each person’s choice about that love is to be respected. “God is love, and whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in him.” The powerful punch is in the “remaining”. Remaining is essentially choice, and there are so many alternatives.
The Gospel, from John 17, enumerates choices about belonging to the world. It captures Jesus’ prayer for those He loves. Specific and caring, He asks for a gift that transcends human desires and preferences. He asks for protection from “the evil one”. Jesus’ prayer goes on in the in the following lines as the evangelist confides an even deeper aspect of love and relationship.
“Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
Sustaining and maintaining relationship is dependent on truth, and so love is ultimately, relationally and rationally, dependent on that truth. On the pursuit of it, the discovery of it, and the meaning of it. The courage of truth rests in the sense that, like love, it is not simply of this world. There is far more to lives that we know and days that we walk through. Truth is the more that motivates dreamers, animates misfits and encourages the hopeful and the hopeless.
Daring to pursue something that does not “belong to this world” is complicated. Relationships, especially those not esteemed or sought simply for gain, are much more than a “one and done” deal. Relationships are a journey, but the “we” of it makes the hazards, hardships and happiness deeply meaningful. The “we” is a magic all its own that bears the joy of celebration and the tragedy of loss with the sense of interdependence and togetherness. This Seventh Sunday of Easter is about learning that “we will be okay”. WE will be okay.