Our Dramatic Lives
Our Dramatic Lives

Our Dramatic Lives

Seventh Sunday of Easter. Fr Robert Ombres reminds us that our salvation is a victory in which we are active participants.

The story goes that during a catechism class the teacher asked, ‘What do you have to do before you can be forgiven?’ Back came the answer from one of the children: ‘You have to sin’.

The unexpected jolt in this reply is a reminder that sometimes we reach too quickly the happy ending of the Christian story. This makes the good news of our redemption less convincing, slackening its hold on us. In important ways, grace is given to us for struggle because there is still something unfinished about each of us. Our future completion meets opposition from different directions.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us of the marvels brought about by the gifts of grace. He speaks of the unity and harmony between himself and his Father, and of how we too can become one as in God’s own life. We are consecrated, made holy, in truth and there is given to us already a share in Jesus’s joy. And all this is on a cosmic scale, ‘cosmos’ being the frequently repeated word for ‘world’ we have just heard.

To be kept at the centre of our reflections on today’s gospel should be what Jesus says to his Father concerning us: ‘But now I am coming to you and while still in the world I say these things to share my joy with them to the full’. These words of Jesus are triumphant and they are a great encouragement to us. They are the foundation of our hope so that our faith is not mere wishful thinking. What Jesus says is made convincing, however, by being interspersed with an awareness of what actively militates against the transformation of the cosmos and our salvation.

Obstacles to the workings of grace do exist, and Jesus names some of them explicitly. To begin with, he refers to the individual given to him to care for, but who was lost. Our lives, all lives, are so dramatic because they can have differing outcomes, and we can become an obstacle to our own salvation. Then there is mention of the hatred directed towards believers, and in our present world we are all too familiar with Christians as victims of physical violence, antagonism, and strategies to silence or marginalise them. Finally, Jesus tells that we need divine protection from the evil one.

These truths make us concerned for the fate of every individual, not neglecting ourselves of course. They leave us with no illusions about the opposition to be faced by believers, and they recognise that the forces for evil are more elusive than we might reckon.

We live out a dramatic reality, and not just as spectators but as active participants. The ‘world’ keeps its ambiguity. Jesus is not asking the Father to take us out of this world, but to redeem us from what is passing and destructive of truth in it. We are to be in the world but not ‘worldly’, as it were. If anything, as followers of Christ we are inserted more deeply into the world by being sent to it as Jesus was sent to it.  While in it, the gift of grace is detaching us from false attachments so that we belong less and less to what is fallen and perishing.

We take part in the drama of salvation in a way that could not be more specific to each one of us or more cosmic in scope. Thinking on Jesus’s words about sending us into the world as he himself was sent by his Father reminds me of one of St John Henry Newman’s meditations. There Newman was also speaking about each of us when he reflected that God had committed to him some work which he had not committed to another. Newman had his mission, though he might never know it in this life. Somehow we are necessary for God’s purposes, each a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. Therefore he will trust God. Newman concluded that, ‘Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away’.

Readings: Acts 1:15-17,20-26 | 1 John 4:11-16 | John 17:11-19

Image: from a stained glass window at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dundalk, Ireland. Copyright Andreas F Borchert, CC BY-SA 3.0

fr. Robert Ombres, former Procurator General of the Order of Preachers, lives and teaches at Blackfriars, Oxford and at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.

Comments (1)

  • Kevin Allen

    Thanks Rob.
    It’s helped me so much in the preparation for my work as a Prison Chaplain; especially the St. JH Newman meditation.
    Thank you.


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