BY DAVID MARION
7th Sunday of Easter Acts 1: 15-26;1 John 4:11-16; John 17: 11-19 MANY OF US MAY FEEL that we have heard enough about elections to last us for a long time. Today we have a story about another kind of election. A replacement in the ranks of the apostles has to be found for unhappy Judas who has killed himself in a fit of shame and remorse.
Why is it so important that the gap be filled? Why not just eleven apostles?
The answer is easy.
St Luke, who wrote the Acts, wanted to show that the Church was not a break with the past, but a continuous growth. As once there were twelve tribes with twelve leaders so there had to be now, in this new growth of the chosen people, twelve apostles.
Peter made it clear that suitable candidates had to have known Jesus well and to have been witnesses to the Resurrection. Then he decided on a choice by ballot. We have long known that, down to this day, the choice of a new Pope is still made by secret ballot. Many religious orders preserve the same custom of making sure that all their members have a say when it comes to choices about leadership. In some non-Catholic Churches no minister takes up his pastoral work unless his appointment has been agreed upon by the congregation he is to serve.
John's Epistle today continues the theme of love. He makes the important comment that "anyone who lives in love lives in God". In the words of the hymn Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est. God is there where there is love.
We may be full of knowledge and conviction but without love God is not there. Those who deny God are agnostics, but those whose lives are full of love for their fellow human beings and for the rest of creation have God with them, even if they do not know it.
God does not stay in the compartments in which we try to put him.
John speaks to us too in the Gospel. Today we have another section of the long Last Supper speech. In it Jesus hands over to his Father the flock he has gathered up. His followers are told that though they are in the world they do not belong to it. If they are faithful followers then this world will sometimes hate them. Our values and standards are not the standards and values of this world. Poverty, powerlessness and forgiveness do not fit easily in a world which treasures the opposites. We ought to be hated sometimes. Our baptism certificate is our first passport and the Kingdom of God our first loyalty.