May 21st, 2023 – the 7th Sunday after Easter
Lectionary Readings: Acts 1:12-14; Ps. 26:1. 4.7-8; 1 Peter 4:13-16, John 17:1-11
Theme: “We have come to know and have believed!”
The Gospel for today from the Apostle, John, is unique in numerous ways. His is a theological approach; even mystical. For him, the Incarnation is central. Christ is the Logos, the Word of God. His use of symbolism and signs powerfully portray his message and John’s style is to develop the characters with narrative and dialogue so that we, the readers have a greater understanding of the situations and events.
The setting is the Last Supper with Jesus having an intimate meal with his disciples. The last three years they have been in close relationship and now the news that he is returning to his Father has come as a shock and saddens them. Jesus’ disciples were his family! He reassures them, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice and no one will take away your joy” (16:22) and he continues to teach his followers, mindful of their fragility.
We then have what is called, ‘The Priestly Prayer’ with Jesus first addressing his Father, then his disciples. His prayer now takes on a greater significance: he prays as a priest offering sacrifice. Lifting his hands to heaven which was the custom of his day, Jesus speaks to his Father declaring that his hour has now come to be fulfilled. He is not praying for himself rather it is an acknowledgement of his absolute fulfillment of the Father’s will. He exults in his Father: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me.” (17:4) We hear the vulnerable cry of the heart of Jesus to his Father. His whole life has manifested God’s glory through his healing and teaching. His mission was to reveal God’s Name. This is the only continuous prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospel and the themes expressed are very similar to those of the Lord’s Prayer – a recognition of God’s holy name, the coming of God’s Kingdom and the deliverance from evil. His public life has now been completed: nothing remains to be done. Jesus lays down his life; he has poured out his soul. It is his final will and testament.
In thanksgiving, Jesus prays for his disciples; acknowledges that God gave them to him; and they know that Jesus has come from the Father. “We have come to know, and have believed the love which God has for us. (4:16) They have faithfully kept God’s word and Jesus prays, “Keep them in your name.” (17:11) He continues saying, “Father, I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.” (17:20) It was the plan of God that we come to faith, not by seeing the love of Christ in the flesh, but by seeing the love of Christ in the word of those who knew him.
Jesus prayed for them that they remain strong in their call of love and service. The disciples needed a strong faith, united as one community and great courage. “The unity of the Father and the Son (10:30) is the model and principle of the unity of the disciples since that ‘name’ that Christ has revealed is nothing less than the divine life itself.” (456, Brown) John’s whole Gospel gradually reveals Jesus’ glory – God’s presence in human flesh and history. It is an unfolding Epiphany!
For Reflection and Discussion: What makes you/me a disciple? How are you/I different from others?
Bibliography: R. Brown, J. Fitzmyer, R. Murphy, The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice-Hall, Inc.
(Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1968)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, Canadian, Bat Kol Alumna: 2001