First Reading
7th Sunday of Easter-Cycle B-2009 Acts of the Apostles 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26

Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers—there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place–He said, “My brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry. “For it is written in the Book of Psalms: May another take his office. “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Judas called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.

Second Reading
1 John 4:11-16

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

Gospel Cycle Cycle B
John 17:11b-19

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any ore than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. 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.”

In the first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, we begin to understand one aspect of the role of the twelve men chosen by our Lord: to be witnesses to all that had happened in the life of the Lord. This role of the twelve seems to die out fairly soon, even though Matthias is chosen to replace Judas. We still keep a sense that our faith must be in accord with the witness of those first twelve who were chosen by the Lord.

The role of apostle comes to be seen as very important. The twelve are apostles but the number of apostles begins to expand. Saint Paul is the best example of this. He himself never claims to be numbered among the twelve but claims over and over to be an apostle. Apostles are those sent to proclaim the good news of God’s love for us: we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.

In our Catholic faith, the bishops are seen as successors of the apostles. These early apostles had a special role of leadership. In the early Church there seems to be a trust in those who are called apostles. When the apostles meet together, as described in the Acts of the Apostles, their decisions are binding on the Churches. Although the structures at that time are less developed and less defined, it is fairly easy to see how Church structures developed.

Even the great charismatic element in the early Church acknowledges the role of the apostles gathered together. In particular, their role was to guard the faith and the unity of the Church and we hear this strongly in today’s Gospel: Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.

This is a strong plea for unity and for walking in the teachings of our Lord. The more faithful we are to following the Lord Jesus, the more we see that he wants us walking together, accepting unity, working together, seeking to be faithful to the Father.

All of these concerns that we hear today in our readings come directly from the Ascension of our Lord. Jesus is no longer here in the same way and how do we follow Him and maintain unity. How do we remain faithful to what He taught here on earth?

Always in our Catholic faith we recognize that this unity implies some structure to keep us one. We see the role of the Bishop of Rome, the Holy Father, as being the role given to Saint Peter by our Lord Himself: strengthen the faith of your brothers. The role of the Bishop of Rome is a living out of today’s Gospel and a living expression of the desire of the early Church to remain one in witness and in faith. The other bishops also share in this role of unity and teaching of the faith.

Let us ask today that the Holy Spirit would continue to strengthen us in faith, in love and in obedience to the role of the Bishop of Rome and the role of all of the bishops. May our following of the Lord Jesus be strengthened by their service.