Summary: Jesus constantly prays for us in the Holy of Holies. We too can reciprocate by constantly praying to God.
The Church today honors the sacred memory of the 318 great fathers who gathered in the city of Nicaea for the First Ecumenical Council. This occurred in the year 325 AD. One of the most important things that happened at that gathering was putting into exact terms the Christian belief in Christ the Son of God. We express that belief when we recite the creed that “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.” (The Sacred and Divine Liturgy of our Holy Father John Chrysostom)
Many people dislike praying because they can’t keep their mind on their prayer. Others feel that prayer takes up so much of their precious time that they just don’t seem to have the time to pray and so they neglect to do it. What they don’t seem to realize is that there is nothing more powerful than prayer. Our Gospel reading this morning finds Jesus in prayer speaking to His Father. The results of His prayer prove that prayer is extremely powerful indeed.
Jesus often prayed to the Father for guidance and strength. Today, in part, He pray begins with: “Father, the hour has come: Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you.” (John 17:1-2 TNJB). It isn’t often that we are privy to what Jesus is saying to His Father in prayer. But on this occasion, at the Last Supper, when all the apostles are present, Jesus prays this prayer. I am guessing that the Evangelist John felt it was important to let everyone know what Jesus prayed that evening, otherwise why would he mention what Jesus said? Perhaps John felt that as Jesus had so deeply touched the hearts of the Apostles with this prayer, everyone should know what He said and be touched by it as well. After all, Jesus is praying not only for His Apostles, but as John says, for “All those you have entrusted to Him.” (John 17:2 TNJB)
This priestly prayer, as it is called, was prayed by Jesus just before He entered Gethsemane and Golgotha. This portion of the Gospel is somewhat like a flight-recorder on an airplane. In the event that something should happen to a plane, the flight recorder would record the information, the inner workings, needed to determine what caused the plane to go down. Likewise, by this prayer, we can see into the inner workings of Jesus mind just before He is crucified.
Continuing in His prayer, Jesus tells His father that He has now completed the work which had been assigned to Him by the Father. Jesus fervently asks the Father to glorify Him and bring Him back to the Father. He wanted to be back with the Father just the way it was from the beginning before He was sent to be physically present with us. Some theologians feel that His asking to be glorified may seem a bit prideful. Not so!
When Jesus left the realm of heaven, He was formed in the womb of Mary. When the Word became flesh, He was lowered from the glory of Life that He had in heaven and brought down to earth. What He was asking for was the glorification of His human nature which He took from Mary, and not His divine nature which was never lost. His human nature also had the right to glorify God because of the union with Himself, who was God.
In the high priestly prayer Jesus asks for two things for Himself. He asks the Father for the courage and strength to persevere the suffering that is about to be put on Him, thereby glorifying God. The second thing that He asks for Himself is to go through with the ordeal so that He can give eternal life to those whom the Father has given Him. Notice, He prays not only for Himself, but also for us as well. He continues to pray for us while serving as a mediator between the Father and Himself.
If it was one of us who were to be crucified, we would need a great amount of courage and strength to get through the ordeal. Death on the cross was a cruel and barbaric form of punishment reserved for the worst of criminals. As Jesus was both divine and mortal, the mortal part of Him required just as much strength and courage as anyone of us would need in order to get through those trying times. Jesus received that strength from the Father when He prayed this high priestly prayer.
Jesus then explains to the Father that He’s always tried to be truthful with everyone in his teaching and asks the Father to bless all those whom the Father had given Him. Jesus was an excellent teacher who taught his disciples well. As a result of His teaching, His followers were convinced and believed that what Jesus was telling them came directly from the Father and was the truth. They believed that they would have everlasting life in eternity with the Father because of the Son. Jesus spoke with such authority that whatever He said was believable and could only come from the Father.