Opening Question: Who are you really close to? Who is there for you?
First Reading: Acts 1:12-14
The Eleven returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives nearby. The distance of the walk was the length of a journey the Jewish Law allowed on the Sabbath. When the entered Jerusalem, they went up into the second story room where they stayed. There was Peter, John, Andrew, and James, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alpheus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas, son of James. All these men were united in prayer, along with the women who followed Jesus and the family of Jesus: his mother Mary and his brothers.
Families stick together. Mickey’s family did.
Little Mickey found that out one day at school. He was playing dodge ball with his friends when a bully approached them. “Hey!” the bully said, “that’s my ball. Give it to me.”
Mickey had the ball in his hand at them time. He took the ball and covered it with both of his arms over his stomach. “No,” little Mickey said quietly to the big bully.
Mickey’s friends went silent. No one wanted to fight the bully. So, they seemed to step back. Mickey soon found himself standing alone before the towering figure.
“Don’t make me tell you again,” the bully snared, as he looked down on Mickey. He had his fist clenched, ready to bounce on the kid with the ball. “Or else.”
“Or else, what?” a voice said from just beyond the crowd.
“Yeah, what?” another voice said from the other direction.
Mickey and the bully looked one way, then the other for the source of the voices. Mickey’s two older brothers approached from opposite directions. The crowd made a path for the older brothers, as both boys walked up to the bully.
“This is my ball,” the bully said gruffly.
“That’s funny,” one of the brothers said. “The ball has the name of the school on it. I don’t see your name on the ball.”
By that time, Mickey’s older brothers stood on either side of the smaller boy, like a wall. The bully shrank at the sight. Without a word, the bully walked away.
“Are you alright?” the brothers seemed to say together.
“Yeah,” Mickey answered.
“Don’t forget,” one of the brothers said to Mickey, “we’ve there for you. We’ll always be there for you.”
The followers of Jesus were like Mickey’s family. Even after Jesus rose from the dead, they stuck together. They were there for each other. They were one. They prayed together and lived together. They were a family.
The followers of Jesus were united. He still wants us to be united. He wants us to be there for each other.
Bridging Question: Have you ever been on an undefeated team? How hard did you have to work to insure your victories? How did you feel at the end of the season?
Gospel: John 17:1-11a
After Jesus said all this to his followers, he looked up to heaven and prayed:
Father, the time has come! Show your Son glory so your Son might show you glory. You gave your Son power over everyone. Show his glory, then, so he can give eternal life to everyone you gave to your Son as his followers. This is what eternal life means. The Son’s followers can be close to you, the only true God, and they can be close to the One you sent, Jesus Christ. I showed your glory here on earth since I finished the work you gave me to do. I am with you, Father. Now show my glory, with the same glory you showed when you first created the universe.
I revealed you to the people you gave me that came from the world. They believed in you and you gave them to me as my followers. They have been faithful to your message. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you. Since I gave them the message you entrusted to me, they accepted it. They really know that I came from you and they believe you sent me. So, I don’t pray for the world. I pray for those that believe in you, Father. You gave them to me as my followers. All that I have is yours and that which is yours is mine. What my followers do shows my glory.
I am no longer in the world but my followers are still in the world. So, I come to you, holy Father, with this request: Be with the followers you gave me so that they might be united just like we are.”
There is nothing like being on a winning team. Better yet, there is nothing like being on an undefeated team at the end of the season. Those who are on a undefeated team have a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride that other teams do not have. But, that sense of accomplishment and pride is meaningless unless it is earned. Some undefeated teams have so much talent that they crush their opponents; the sense of pride they feel is cheap. But, some undefeated teams come from behind and win close games, time after time. They earn their sense of pride, because they win based more on their teamwork than their talent.
Brittany was on such a winning team. At the beginning of the soccer season, she was assigned to a team of strangers. The girls didn’t really know each other and they really didn’t know the coach. Throughout three weeks of practices, Brittany got to know her teammates: Natalie, Ashley, and Tiffany. Natalie was a good goalie, Ashley was a fast runner, so she was a forward, and Tiffany could handle the ball well, so she became a mid-fielder. Brittany could play any position, so the coach shifted her around.
The first game of the season was almost a disaster. By the half, the girls were losing 5-1. Brittany had been on losing teams before, but there was this sense of hope the coach and the girls all shared that first game. That hope would carry them to victory, one goal at a time. They won the first game 6-5. The winning goal came with less than a minute to play.
The other games were like that first one. 3-2, 7-5, 1-0, 4-2, 4-3. More than half of their victories were won with mere moments left in the game. More than half of the games were “come from behind” victories. The parents of the team almost hated to go to the games. They gave the team a nickname: the “Cardiac Kids.” One parent said, “Every time I watch one of my daughter’s games, I feel like my heart will stop.” The girls were proud of their nickname, but their feelings of confidence and unity they shared were even greater. They were one in mind and heart and purpose. Together, they seemed to define the meaning of the word “team.”
The championship game seemed to mirror the others. This time they played against the team with the most goals scored in the league. Their opponent was quick, big, and very talented. By the half, Brittany’s team was losing 7-2. The coach’s instructions to the girls during the half were simple: “We’ve been here before. You know we can win this game, too.” Every girl on the team smiled. They knew they could win the game. They were united in that feeling. They were one.
At the whistle that began the second half, the opponents pressed hard and got a shot on goal. Natalie jumped up and made a spectacular save. She passed the ball to Tiffany who ran down field and passed the ball Brittany. Brittany fought off two defenders and somehow passed the ball to Ashley. Ashley broke out and scored a goal. The rest of the game was like that play. Their opponents got far more shots on goal, but Brittany’s team made the shots that counted.
With less than a minute in the game, Brittany’s team scored the tying goal. The excitement of the game was at a fever pitch. Both sides were yelling and screaming, trying to boost their side to victory. The play on the field was even more intense. On the kick off, Brittany’s team rushed down the field. Brittany and Ashley cornered the girl with the ball; when the girl tried to pass the ball, she kicked it out of bounds. Ashley picked up the ball, threw it to Brittany who spun around and passed two girls. When the defenders ran up to Brittany, she passed the ball to Tiffany. Tiffany tried to make a shot, but was blocked. The ball spun upward. Brittany ran up to the crowd of defenders and jumped, higher than anyone else. Her head made contact with the ball, and the ball eased off the fingertips of the opposing goalie into the net. The moment the ball hit the netting of the goal, the official blew the whistle that marked the end of the game.
At their team banquet, the girls celebrated their amazing season. The Cardiac Kids found a way to win, simply because they were one, in heart, in mind, and in purpose. Brittany and her teammates would never forget that magical time.
Together as one. One in heart and mind and purpose. One like God is one. God the Father and God the Son are one. And they invite us to share in their unity. When we say “yes” to God, we become one with God the Father and God the Son because God the Spirit lives in us. This is a unity far greater than that of a winning team. It is a unity that will last forever.
Isn’t that what we really all want?
Closing: Pray for unity with God. Pray to be one with his followers.