7th Sunday Of Easter.
Cycle A June 2011
Gospel: John 17:1-11
Dcn Tony van Vuuren
Listening to the eleven verses from today’s Gospel has allowed us to be present in an intimate moment as Jesus prays to His Father in heaven. We listen in on this prayer and learn that Jesus and his Father are united in what is about to happen; and what is about to happen will be a revelation of God to the disciples, as has each of the works Jesus has done throughout John’s Gospel.
The reading from Chapter 17 is described as Jesus’ last will and testament; and takes us back to the upper room during the Last Supper before the crucifixion. Within the context of John’s Gospel the prayer stands as Jesus’ Priestly Prayer; His last public accounting to God for His mission.
In this final prayer John doesn’t present Jesus in agony as the other Gospels do. Jesus is not asking God to take away what he is about to endure. Rather his concern is for his disciples; he is concerned for them and how they will fare “in the world.” as he speaks about eternal life for them.
Jesus’ mission was to reveal God more fully than before and to open up the prospect of “eternal life”; human life lived in the knowledge of God and in communion with God. As the time for His death approaches He anticipates leaving His disciples to carry on with that mission down through history: “I am not in the world any longer, but they are in the world.”
Jesus goes on in his farewell prayer; not asking that they might find escape, but that they might find victory. He was not asking that they might find comfort, cloistered in a monastic life, withdrawn from the world. He was asking that they might find courage in the rough and tumble of life, where one must live out their Christianity.
Christianity was never meant to withdraw us from life, but rather better equip us for life. It does not offer us release from problems, but rather a way to solve them. It does not offer us a life in which troubles are escaped and evaded, but a life in which troubles are faced and dealt with. We don’t always succeed and we might ask; “where was God?” but that is no reason for us to be tempted to turn our backs on Him.
In his concern Jesus shows a parent’s sentiment for his followers. There is a pattern in Jesus’ prayer that we see lived out by parents in a beautiful, concerned and sometimes sad way in every stage of life. The act of receiving, of nurturing, blessing and letting go.
It is a prayer said by many loving mothers and fathers on a daily basis when we have had to let go, and let our children, whatever age, whatever stage of life, find their own feet; whatever the circumstance; we hand over to God and place them in His hands.
I don’t have to give any examples because any parent here will have been on your knees praying or will be in the future; but the power of parents’ prayers for their children is undeniable. Trusting God to bring to completion the plan for which he allowed one to take such a wonderful part; and asking through our prayers that God may help us and our family and friends to face the challenges of each day with courage and dignity; and help us loosen the grip of our possessive and self-seeking habits that will enable us to let go.
Listening to Jesus’ prayer we are all invited into a very personal space, not just in hearing Jesus’ words to his Father, but into the very intimacy of their relationship. As we listen in we feel included because Jesus is praying about us. We hear his realistic appraisal of our situation because we are left in a world that easily rejects God, and so we need God’s loving protection and help when it comes to making our choices, large or small, based on the courage of our faith in Jesus and His Gospel.
The disciples gathered together in the “upper room”; the place we traditionally associate with the place where Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist with His disciples; and so each week we gather here at his table; a table that has no place names, a table that has no order of merit seating; to hear the words Jesus has spoken to us about God. And each week Jesus again gives glory to God by revealing God’s compassion, forgiveness, love and healing to us. It is what Jesus did and what he does for us again at this Eucharist. Coming to know God in this way is Jesus’ gift of eternal life for us now.
Jesus’ prayer can give us the courage to face the darkness, no matter how scary, and search for the signs of God’s glory. As Jesus’ hour nears, one feels that God is drawing even closer to him; which is what God does with us each and every time we face our hour of need.
Sinners or sinless, we are still followers of Christ, and that prayer of His for us at the Last Supper asking His Father, ”to give eternal life to all who are His” was not said in vain. Unless we deliberately desert Him, He will not desert us. He will bring us to the Father, where we will rejoice forever in the company of Christ, who shared our humanity with us, so that we could share and enjoy His divinity and humanity in heaven for all eternity.