Saturday, May 27, 2017

7th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 21.05.2017

Acts 1:12-14 / 1 Peter 4:13-16 / John 17:1-11

Last Wednesday, there was a historical meeting between two Christian heads-of-state.

For such a meeting, we would expect the usual formal protocol and etiquette between political leaders like smiles and handshakes, and more so since both are also Christians.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump. But it was a meeting that was closely watched because both had voiced out criticism about each other even before they met.

Before his election to the presidency, Donald Trump had said that he planned to build a border wall between the US and Mexico.

But it happened that the Pope was returning from a trip to Mexico, and he said: A person who thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not a Christian. 

Trump responded swiftly at a campaign event: For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.

So with such a public tension in the background, the meeting between the two was closely watched and also photographed.

As we know, Pope Francis is quite photogenic. He is usually photographed as smiling and even laughing.

But one photo that has gone viral showed a glum-looking Pope standing next to a smiling Trump, and that was immediately compared to other earlier photos of a smiling Pope with other heads-of-state, including the former US President Barrack Obama.

Yes, it was a high profile meeting between the two leaders, one religious and the other political, both had a disagreement, and the world was watching, photographing and commenting.

Yes, people were watching, photographing and commenting. But was there anyone praying? 

Well, at least Pope Francis and Donald Trump would be praying in preparation for their first meeting. Both are Christians, and Christians should pray for anything and everything.

But at least there is another person who would have prayed for them. Because in the gospel, there was this line said by Jesus: I pray for them.

Just four words that tell us the priority and the importance of prayer. And if Jesus can say that He prays, then all the more, we as His disciples should pray and must pray.

And that priority and importance of prayer is truly understood by the early Church. In the 1st reading, we heard that the apostles were in the upper room and joined in continuous prayer with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus. 

The 1st reading made it a point to mention Mary, and it was the last mention of her in the Bible, and it portrays her as praying with the Church and for the Church.

And we can be sure that Mary also prayed for the Pope and the US President in their first meeting.

Indeed, the whole aspect of prayer is so important and fundamental in the life of a Christian. So it may be said that a Christian who does not pray cannot be considered a Christian, and a Christian who does not pray is also rather disgraceful.

A Christian, through prayer, is united with Jesus, and goes forth to tear down walls and build bridges.

This Sunday is also known as World Communication Sunday. The Church wants to emphasize that communication must lead to communion. 

Prayer is our communication with God. Prayer must also lead us to a communion with others.

As Christians, we are called to communicate the love of God to others, so that we will tear down walls and build bridges. And Jesus prays that we will do just that.

Which brings to mind how we use our electronic communication devices. Are we using it to tear down walls and build bridges? Or are we using it to build walls and burn bridges?

And here Pope Francis has shown us how to communicate in order to have communion. His meeting with Donald Trump ended off with a warm exchange of gifts.

The Pope had a theme with his gifts, and it was theme of peace.

He presented Trump with a medallion and he said: This is a medallion with an olive tree which is a symbol of peace. It has two branches, which were divided in the middle because of war. And the olive tree is slowly trying to bring them together for peace. It is my strongest desire that you can be an olive tree to make peace.
Donald Trump responded: Thank you, I will remember what you said.

It was a beautiful ending to the meeting between the two leaders. 
Jesus prayed for them. Mary and the saints also prayed for them.

May we also pray that in our communication with others, walls will be torn down and bridges will be built for peace and communion.