Summary: Year C Seventh Sunday of Easter May 27, 2001 John 17: 20-26
Title: “May they be one as we are one.”
At the Last Supper Jesus prays for the future of the Church.
Chapter seventeen constitutes the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the Gospels. It has been called the “High Priestly” or “Priestly” Prayer because Jesus intercedes for his disciples, present and future with his Father. The sentiments expressed reveal the intimacy and union Jesus enjoys with his Father. The boundary between time and eternity is gone. Jesus is on his way to the Father, a sort of spiritual ascension long before the physical one. The prayer is saturated with a sense of urgency, but end of time urgency, that is, not of chronos time, historical time, but of kairos time, opportunity or salvation time.
The prayer, prayed aloud within earshot of his disciples, is a sort of last will and testament intended to inspire the disciples to continue Jesus work and life “in his name.” Jesus prays in verses one to five for himself to accomplish the Father’s purpose: glory; verses six to nineteen for his disciples to continue his mission fruitfully; verses twenty to twenty-three for the Church of the future, especially for unity; and verses twenty-four to twenty-six for the union of all- both the disciples and the future Church.
In verse twenty for those “who will believe in me through their word.” The Church is made up of post-Jesus disciples, disciples who never knew Jesus in the flesh. The Church is the continuation of the earthly, historical Jesus, his words and works. People get into the Church by believing on the word of earlier disciples, traced all the way back to Jesus. In 10:16 Jesus introduced this theme when he said, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” Later disciples learn to recognize the voice of Jesus, Shepherd, Lamb, Priest, Messiah, by being trained by prior disciples. Then, after that, they are able to recognize him on their own. At the Last Supper Jesus had all of his disciples in mind, present and future.
In verse twenty-one so “that they may all be one.” The unity Jesus has been praying for has to do with the divine mutual indwelling. The unity, read intimacy, union, communion, communication, symbiosis the Son enjoys with the Father is both the model and the cause of the unity the disciples enjoys with Jesus. This would, of course, have positive effect and affect upon all disciples who enjoy the same internal unity of life. They would show this in their behavior- towards one another and towards the world and people at large. This is the only petition Jesus prays for the Church. Disunity is a denial of the faith.
“That the world may believe that you have sent me.” A disunited Christian community denies by its behavior the message which it proclaims.
In verse twenty-two and I have given them the glory, Jesus passed on to his disciples whatever the Father gave him. That would be love. Here it is cast in terms of “glory,” the revelation of that love, revealed in a way it can be seen heard, touched and personally, including physically, encountered. If disciples have that then they have what holds the Father and Son in union, here described as union itself.