Today’s reading: John 17
Today we read Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane that he prays just before his arrest. There are some important aspects to focus on and of which to take note.
First, it is important to understand Jesus’ first petition to the Father:
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
To know God is more than just intellectual understanding, it is to have that relationship with God. That relationship is made possible to us through the son, Jesus Christ. Another important aspect is made here:
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
First, this is similar language used in Exodus to consecrate Aaron into the Priesthood. When Jesus said, “do this in memory of me…”, this is also priestly language. It is clear that the Apostles are being ordained, priests.
Next, notice Jesus is sending them into the world AS THE FATHER SENT HIM into the world. How did Jesus come into the world? There are many answers to this question and among them are that Jesus came into the world to announce and teach the Gospel, for the forgiveness of sins, to speak for the Father, and with the Father’s authority. This is how the Apostles now go into the world. With the Authority of the Son, to teach the Gospel, forgive sins and to ordain others to follow after them.
Most importantly, notice that in his last prayers before his passion begins, Jesus repeatedly returns to one theme. That theme is unity. How important must this idea be for Jesus to mention it so often?
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Jesus’ most emphatic prayer in the Garden is for unity among his followers. I do not pretend to know the mind of God, but it seems to me that there is no room in this prayer for “denominations” of Christians. Jesus does not just call for us to be nice to each other. He’s not asking us to be accepting of our different theologies. He does not pray for us to merely agree on the essentials. He calls for us to be one as He and the Father are one. The Father and the Son are the same in nature and their wills are united. They love each other perfectly and seek the same things at all times. Thus, it is to be the same for all Christians. When one acts, we all act. When one hurts, we all hurt. When one separates themselves from the body, all loose.
Notice also that his prayer for unity is specifically directed to those disciples who believe in Jesus through the words of the Apostles. (I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…). This can and should be read as an allusion by Jesus to Apostolic succession. For Jesus’ prayer to be meaningful to us today the Apostles had to select and appoint successors. It is through the successors that we can today believe through “their” word.
This prayer for unity comes at the Passover, after the Last Supper and at the institution of the Eucharist. Compare Jesus’ prayer here in the Garden with the Bread of Life discourse in John 6. The words are strikingly similar. In John 6, Jesus says that if eat his flesh and drink his blood he will “abide” in you. Here he makes the same prayer asking the father that the unity of him and his disciples mirror the unity between Him and the Father. Again, Jesus says specifically, “just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us…”.
The Eucharist is the glorified body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord. It can only be consecrated by an ordained priest in union with the Apostles through their successor Bishops. IF one can humble themselves to accept this teaching they can enter a true relationship with God in which Christ himself, and therefore the entire Trinity, literally abides in you bringing you in perfect union with God. Your soul sings! Ecstatic to be one with God as the Father and Son are one.
Tomorrow: John 18