Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 20, 2020 | Gospel Reflections

John 17: 1 – 11a

Sunday Reflection by Sister Barbara Thiella, SNDdeN

Early March of 2020, my large California living community withdrew and began waiting for the coronavirus to go away. Sequestered, the 400+ began our long wait for healing. Like the community of John’s Gospel in the early first century, we hear Jesus urgency for us to recognize God’s presence, “The hour has come.” Using words about life, knowledge, love and unity, his farewell prayer illustrates his own intimacy with Abba. These four themes offer a way to rest quietly with Jesus and truly hear his words: a shift in presence does not mean abandonment. It will take time for Jesus’ companions to realize how Jesus, the Spirit, and Abba, will remain with them in a new way.

Later, as the community moves into action in the name of Abba, they remember how union leads to communion and loss precedes joy. Just as Jesus received the name and blessing of Abba at the Jordan River, so his followers will realize that they, too, are the Beloved who will proclaim the good news of God. As Jesus speaks about his relationship with Abba, he offers strength to his followers. When their hour comes, with courage they will send his message to the known world of their time and to us – their heirs.

Only after experiencing Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension do first century followers realize that the good God dwells in their immediate experience: the prayer themes of life, knowledge, love and unity coalesce. Receiving the gift of the Spirit of God, the early followers move into action proclaiming good news and living for others. Such good news! To know Abba deeply is to recognize how he is in immediate experience calling for a response. They treasure how the Holy Other dwells visibly in lives lived for others.

Today, what do you find in Jesus’ prayer during this unexpected long retreat of more than 60 days? The American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Within us is the soul of the whole, the wise silence, thin universal beauty, the eternal one,” whom we call the good God. The hour has come for us to make Jesus’ prayer our own. The time is now to see God’s glory and to listen for hints of life eternal. Within Jesus’ prayer is an invitation to linger: drawing us to intimacy with Abba and each other; offering union that leads to communion; listening to the Word offer us words from his heart. What invitation do hear?

Jesus is the place where God has placed a human name and we are the place where Jesus has entrusted his life’s work. In the messiness of life Jesus promises life, knowledge, love, and unity. Through us – his beloved followers, the name of God given to Jesus will be glorified.

As I look outside my window at a sunny California day, I see beyond the empty streets and absence of companions. What yet will come as you and I announce God’s goodness? Prompted by the celebration of the Ascension, please be companions on the way. We are in the world while Jesus is coming to Abba. Whatever remains to be done is ours to do.


John 17: 1 – 11a

Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people,
so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.
Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
I glorified you on earth
by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.
Now glorify me, Father, with you,
with the glory that I had with you before the world began.
“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.
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,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours
and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
And now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”

The word of the Lord


Meet Sister Barbara Thiella, SNDdeN


Sr. Barbara Thiella, SNDdeN, daughter of John D. and Edna F. Dutcher Thiella, was born in San Francisco, California, on April 26, 1939. She was the first of two children. Her brother John is an attorney. Barbara entered the California Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1957, receiving the name Sr. Andrea. She attended Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, earning a degree in liberal arts and a California teaching credential. Then, she studied at the University of San Francisco and obtained a graduate degree in theology and a California credential in school administration. Later, she received a credential from the State of Hawaii. Sister Barbara has spent half of her years of ministry in formal education and the other half in leadership roles for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the Catholic Church at the diocesan level. Within Notre Dame schools, Sister Barbara has served as a teacher and administrator in the Dioceses of San Francisco, Monterey, Sacramento and Honolulu. She also worked at the University of the Pacific, Stockton, as a Campus Minister. As Vice Chancellor in the Diocese of Oakland, Sister Barbara facilitated the Second Pastoral Convocation and the ensuing Diocesan Pastoral Council. The California Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame called her first to direct personnel planning and then to be a member of the California Leadership team. Since 2000, Sister Barbara served as Chancellor in the Diocese of Stockton with a particular care for diocesan ministries that offer resources and training to 34 parishes and 12 missions. Sister Barbara has used her training and skills in pastoral theology and administration, research and development, in service to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, dioceses in the Northern California Province, other religious communities, schools and seminaries. As a woman of the Church, Sister Barbara offers her life to affirm goodness in persons and institutions and to build together with others towards an inclusive community. As a Sister of Notre Dame, she cherishes the gospel call to seek for goodness in all aspects of life. The communal dedication of the Sisters of Notre Dame challenges and strengthens her own following of Jesus Christ.