Jesus is aware that his disciples will encounter trials in their mission, after his departure. These trials will come not only from outside, but also from within. This is why in his long goodbye speech Jesus takes the trouble to give some instructions which help the disciples to remain focused on their mission. What message does the 7th Sunday of Easter have for us?
Bible readings Acts 7: 55–60 Psalm 97: 1–2, 6–7, 9 Apocalypse 22: 12–14, 16–20 John 17: 20–26
Recapture of the goodbye speech
Already in chapter 13 of the Gospel of John, by the washing of the feet during the Last Supper, Jesus shows that a disciple is called to live the commandment of love through service. So, whoever wants to be the first should be the servant of all, following the example of the master himself. And that’s why, by analogy, the disciples are called to be configured onto their master, like branches onto the vine, if they are to be fruitful in their mission. And today’s Gospel, John chapter 17, marks the end of this discourse. What is Jesus doing?
Jesus at prayer
With his eyes raised to heaven, he addresses the following prayer to the father: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one, as you, father, are in me, and I in you” (Jn 17:20). In his prayer, Jesus carries with affection all the generations of Christians. Indeed, it’s comforting to know that Jesus prays for us; he prays for me and he prays for you too. But why this prayer?
It’s because after the departure of Jesus, it is the time of the church that begins. The church will certainly perform wonders, thanks to the Holy Spirit that accompanies it; however, it will also face its reality. Despite the presence of the Holy Spirit it remains, nevertheless, a community of men and women. Yes, we make the effort to stay on the rail of this mission entrusted to us, by remaining docile to the Spirit, but there also times when we leave our human fragility to take control. As a result, instead of serving we fall into scramble for honour and prestige; instead of gathering we divide. It’s enough to look not only at the history of the church but also at my personal history as a Christian. And when we look at our families, we realise that we, indeed, need the grace of unity as Jesus prayed. This is why we need help from the Holy Spirit: to show us the way, to correct us, and to make us remain faithful to the example Jesus left for us.
Love and Unity
Jesus makes this prayer for unity on Holy Thursday, the moment when he gives the new commandment, the commandment of love. It is impossible to live the commandment of love without unity, in fact, unity makes love visible. Therefore, couples who live in love and in unity actualize the prayer of Jesus; faithful to their vocation they radiate the image of God.
Living in unity breaks barriers between us and enables us to live in communion, like God himself is the communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is this affection of the Triune God that Jesus wishes for us, as the church and as families. However, this unity is not just a fruit of our effort but also a gift of the Holy Spirit. That is why, this time as we await Pentecost, we could pray for families, couples and friends suffering the effects of divisions so that, by the help of the Holy Spirit, they may find a way of reconciliation.
Yes, Lord, give our families and our churches to live unity as you and the father are one.
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