Monday, May 17, 2010

Gospel for Tuesday, 7th Week of Easter

Optional Memorial: St John 1, Pope and Martyr

From: John 17:1-11a

The Priestly Prayer of Jesus
[1] When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted His eyes to Heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee, [2] since Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom Thou hast given Him. [3] And this is eternal life, that they know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. [4] I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou gavest Me to do; [5] and now, Father, glorify Thou Me in Thy own presence with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was made.

[6] "I have manifested Thy name to the men who Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy word. [7] Now they know that everything Thou hast given Me is from Thee; [8] for I have given them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from Thee;and they have believed that thou didst send Me. [9] I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom Thou hast given Me, for they are Thine; [10] all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them. [11a] And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to Thee."

1-26. At the end of the discourse of the Last Supper (Chapters 13-16) begins what is called the Priestly Prayer of Jesus, which takes up all of Chapter 17. It is given that name because Jesus addresses His Father in a very moving dialogue in which, as Priest, He offers Him the imminent sacrifice of His passion and death. It shows us the essential elements of His redemptive mission and provides us with teaching and a model for our own prayer. "The Lord, the Only-begotten and co-eternal with the Father, could have prayed in silence if necessary, but He desired to show Himself to the Father in the attitude of a supplicant because He is our Teacher. [...] Accordingly this prayer for His disciples was useful not only to those who heard it, but to all who would read it" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 104, 2).

The Priestly Prayer consists of three parts: in the first (verses 1-5) Jesus asks for the glorification of His holy human nature and the acceptance, by His Father, of His sacrifice on the cross. In the second part (verses 6-19) He prays for His disciples, whom He is going to send out into the world to proclaim the redemption which He is now about to accomplish. And then (verses 20-26) He prays for unity among all those who will believe in Him over the course of the centuries, until they achieve full union with Him in Heaven.

1-5. The word "glory" here refers to the splendor, power and honor which `belong to God'. The Son is God equal to the Father, and from the time of His Incarnation and birth and especially through His death and resurrection His divinity has been made manifest. "We have beheld His glory, glory as the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14). The glorification of Jesus has three dimensions to it. 1) It promotes the glory of the Father, because Christ, in obedience to God's redemptive decree (cf. Philippians 2:6), makes the Father known and so brings God's saving work to completion. 2) Christ is glorified because His divinity, which He has voluntarily disguised, will eventually be manifested through His human nature which will be seen after the Resurrection invested with the very authority of God Himself over all creation (verses 2, 5). 3) Christ, through His glorification, gives man the opportunity to attain eternal life, to know God the Father and Jesus Christ, His only Son: this in turn redounds to the glorification of the Father and of Jesus Christ while also involving man's participation in divine glory (verse 3).

"The Son glorifies You, making You known to all those You have given Him. Furthermore, if the knowledge of God is life eternal, we the more tend to life, the more we advance in this knowledge. [...] There shall the praise of God be without end, where there shall be full knowledge of God; and because in Heaven this knowledge shall be full, there shall glorifying be of the highest" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 105, 3).

6-8. Our Lord has prayed for Himself; now He prays for His Apostles, who will continue His redemptive work in the world. In praying for them, Jesus describes some of the prerogatives of those who will form part of the Apostolic College.

First, there is the prerogative of being chosen by God: "Thine they were...". God the Father chose them from all eternity (cf. Ephesians 1:3-4) and in due course Jesus revealed this to them: "The Lord Jesus, having prayed at length to the Father, called to Himself those whom He willed and appointed twelve to be with Him, whom He might send to preach the Kingdom of God (cf. Mark 3:13-19; Matthew 10:1-42). These apostles (cf. Luke 6:13) He constituted in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which He placed Peter, chosen from among them (cf. John 21:15-17)" (Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium", 19). Also, the Apostles enjoy the privilege of hearing God's teaching direct from Jesus. From this teaching, which they accept with docility, they learn that Jesus came from the Father and that therefore He is God's envoy (verse 8): that is, they are given to know the relationships that exist between the Father and the Son.

The Christian, who also is a disciple of Jesus, gradually acquires knowledge of God and of divine things through living a life of faith and maintaining a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

"Recalling this human refinement of Christ, who spent His life in the service of others, we are doing much more than describing a pattern of human behavior; we are discovering God. Everything Christ did has a transcendental value. It shows us the nature of God and beckons us to believe in the love of God who created us and wants us to share His intimate life" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 109).

11-19. Jesus now asks the Father to give His disciple four things--unity, perseverance, joy and holiness. By praying Him to keep them in His name (verse 11) He is asking for their perseverance in the teaching He has given them (cf. verse 6) and in communion with Him. An immediate consequence of this perseverance is unity: "that they may be one, even as We are one"; this unity which He asks for His disciples is a reflection of the unity of the Three Divine Persons.

He also prays that none of them should be lost, that the Father should guard and protect them, just as He Himself protected them while He was with them. Thirdly, as a result of their union with God and perseverance they will share in the joy of Christ (verse 13): in this life, the more we know God and the more closely we are joined to Him, the happier will we be; in eternal life our joy will be complete, because our knowledge and love of God will have reached its climax.

Finally, He prays for those who, though living in the world, are not of the world, that they may be truly holy and carry out the mission He has entrusted to them, just as He did the work His Father gave Him to do.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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