May 24, 2020
Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A
This final Sunday of Easter time bids us read a passage from the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John, where, after speaking with His disciples, after opening their hearts, Jesus now directly addresses the Father: it’s the long prayer of Jesus, called the “priestly” prayer.
It is to the Father that Jesus entrusts what is most dear to Him: first of all His mission among men, which is now going through the drama of death and failure, so that all may be fulfilled and Jesus can thus give eternal life to all.
Then, Jesus entrusts his disciples, his friends, those who have listened and received him, to the Father.
And He prays not only for them, but also for all others who, in the future, will believe in Him and will receive from Him the gift of new life.
The Father entrusted them all to Him – “they were yours and you gave them to me” (Jn 17: 6) – so that He would fill them with life, leading them to the full knowledge of the Face of God. And now that Jesus is about to accomplish this mission, He can restore all to the Father from whom everything comes: it falls to the Father, now, to watch over this work. Jesus’ prayer begins with a request that may seem strange to us: “Father, glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you” (Jn 17:1), and this request will reappear several times within the passage.
It necessary to understand what Jesus is asking, whose glory He asks to be glorified: for it is not a glory as we understand it.
In the Gospels of Matthew (20:20-28) and Mark (10:35-45) we find an episode of Jesus’ life and His disciples that can help us understand.
John and James ask Jesus to sit one on the right and the other on the left in His kingdom: their request reflects an idea of very human, very worldly glory. An idea according to which glory would correspond to power, fame, success, and greatness. And Jesus already sees the opportunity to tell them that this is not true glory.
And repeatedly He will tell the disciples that they will get lost in asking themselves who is the greatest of them (cf. Lk 22:24), that true glory is that of one who serves, who takes the last place of those who give Life without holding anything for oneself.
Why? Because glory is nothing other than everything that manifests God to men, and the God of Jesus has chosen to manifest Himself in every humble gesture of love, for He Himself is love and humility.
He will therefore not manifest Himself in wealth, in power, in dominion, but in every lowering act, in every moment of gratuitousness.
Therefore, glory cannot be gained by ourselves, accumulating goods and triumphs. In the John’s Gospel Jesus is very hard with those who refuse to believe Him, with those who do not want to “go to Him to have life” (Jn 5: 40): “I do not receive glory from men… And how can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? (5: 41, 44). Even they, like James and John, seek glory, and they too seek for earthly glory, “from each other”. But it is precisely this erroneous search that prevents believing in Him, that prevents receiving the true glory of God, which is manifested in the works of Christ, in the paradox whereby true glory consists in losing everything.
Then human glory divides and alienates from God, but also, among ourselves, divides and alienates us: in the episodes of James and John, the outcome of their request is the discord with the other disciples, scandalized.
Instead, the glory that Jesus asks the Father ultimately results in the unity of the disciples, for the glory of Christ reaches fulfilment exactly in making His own one, just as Jesus and the Father are one (Jn 17:11,21).
Now it is easier for us to understand what the request at the beginning of Jesus’ long prayer means: at this decisive moment, Jesus only asks to be able to fully reveal the Father. He will do it on the cross, which is the greatest theophany, the paradoxical place where the true Face of God shines most. We could not know the Father if Jesus had not revealed Him in His passion.
All the rest of the prayer will be nothing more than a declination in the life of this unique desire of this great passion of the Lord: by revealing the Father on the Cross, Jesus will give eternal life to men (Jn 17: 2), will give the possibility of knowing God, believing in Him, choosing to belong to Him.
So the glory of Jesus will also be reflected in us, and this will be the ultimate truth of our life, our true grandeur, beyond any success or failure, in all riches and all poverty.