Christianity wouldn’t exist if Christ hadn’t been a smart businessman. Every successful business requires a succession plan, and this Sunday’s readings let us in on the culmination of that plan. Our gospel passage from John (jn 17:1-11a) puts us right in the board room with Jesus and his disciples, as Jesus asks the boss to bless his successors:
“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world,” he says. “They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them … 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. I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”
Our first reading returns us to that sacred upper room where Jesus had taught the disciples the breaking of the bread, the pouring of the wine, and the reality of his rising. Whenever the disciples had a chance to be alone in a room with Jesus, that’s when they could put together the puzzle pieces they received while out in the world witnessing his miracles. They didn’t really comprehend what happened during the transfiguration of Jesus, and they didn’t always have the full power of faith to exorcise demons as their Master did, but all of those amazing puzzle pieces came together in that upper room. Jesus made sure that by the time he was ready to ascend to his father they got the full picture.
“After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles returned to Jerusalem,” our first reading tells us (acts 1:12-14). “When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.”
Our second reading (1 pt 4:13-16) shows the result of all they learned from Jesus and the transformation of Peter into the leader Jesus intended him to be. Only a true leader could inspire the succession of leaders that lasted 2000 years and continues as today all churches around the world are reading Peter’s marching orders:
“Beloved, rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Suffering? Sign me up for that! And they did sign up—all the martyrs and saints following Peter as leaders have helped Christianity survive not only as a faith, but as a plan to follow Jesus to the Kingdom to which he ascended. You and I are part of that succession plan as we prepare our families for that journey. Remember, Jesus said he’d pray for all who believe in him through the words of those who succeeded him. How could we not succeed?