June 2, 2019
Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C
For the Church that has already celebrated the Ascension last Thursday, the Liturgy proposes for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the final part of the well-known prayer of Jesus (Jn 17:20-26).
This prayer, which comprises the entire Chapter 17, is in three parts. In the first part (vv.1-5), Jesus prays for Himself, in the second (vv.6-19), He prays for His disciples, and in the third, which the Liturgy presents today (vv.20-26), Jesus prays for those who will believe, that is us, (“I do not pray only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,” v.20).
In a certain sense, in this Gospel passage, Jesus addresses us directly and shows us the way of Christian life.
Jesus says, first of all, that faith, which is a relationship with Him, passes through the announcement of believers (“those who will believe in me through their word” 20). Faith is not a private affair but must be communicated and announced. The believer does not live for oneself; the Christian faith strengthens and grows when it is testified. There is life when someone gives life; faith when someone gives it. That is the law of the Christian. A faith that does not share quenches itself, it dies. It is essential to Christian identity to be always ready to respond to whoever asks the reason for the hope that is in them (cf. 1Peter 3:15).
From this passage of the prayer, we can take three elements.
The first and most apparent is the prayer for unity, which is spoken throughout the passage (“that they all may be one,” v.21; “that they may be in perfect unity,” v.23). The unity of believers is the first form of proclamation and it is what renders testimony credible. There is no mention here of social unity, of an effort that comes from us, from below: “As you, Father, are in me and I in you” (21), “they may be one as we are one” (22). The unity between believers is a sign and symbol of the unity between Jesus and the Father. The Gospel of John insists a lot on the intimate relationship between the Father and Jesus (5:19; 8:28; 10:25, 32. 37; 12:50); it is sort of a guiding thread through the entire Gospel.
In other words, sharing life among ourselves, giving it reciprocally, in communicating it to others, in preserving unity, we participate in the divine life (“May they be also in us,” 21). The unity between the Father and Jesus is extended to and shared by believers who, in turn, loving each other, they may it visible and understandable to the world.
Another element is that this unity does not have any intimacy but, on the contrary, must be tangible and visible because only in this way will the world be able to experience Jesus, only in this way will the world believe in Jesus “That the world may believe that you have sent me,” 21). If, on the one hand, the unity of believers is not a mere matter of organization but is a fruit of divine action, it is also true that the unity of believers must be historically visible. The world needs to see our unity. That unity will have a decisive impact on the world: “By this, all will know what you are my disciples: if you love one another” (Jn 13:25).
Finally, in the passage, glory, and love are spoken of at different times, terms that refer to one another, and in this case are almost synonymous. The glory here is the revelation of the love of God, which has its culmination in the condescension of the washing of feet, and in the cross (let us not forget that we are still in the Cenacle of Easter).
The real glory of Jesus lies in following the way of humble service which culminates in the cross. Also, for the disciples – and for us who have believed in their word – true glory lies in the way of humble service. The way of the cross is the way for true glory. Before being a symbol of suffering and sacrifice, the cross is the place where we know the boundless love of God. We do not build unity by becoming great but, on the contrary, in making room for the other, loving him more than ourselves. Only a love like this, that knows how to give oneself and knows how to make oneself small in making room for the other, can build unity and become like the image of God’s Love, of the unity between the Father and Jesus.
It is not easy to understand to the core this passage, to get into the understanding of this particular and unique relationship between the Father and Jesus and ours with them. Nor can we alone, solely with our strength, have the ability to live like this, in building unity with that style.
All this cannot be the fruit of only human effort.
For this the Consoler will be sent, the Spirit who will live in us and always remain with us (Jn 14:16) and He will make us know the name of God (26), that is himself. In the Gospel of John, we do not arrive at intimate knowing by the intellect but with the heart. To know means to see, to experience. The Spirit who will be poured into our hearts will make us know, that is experience practically the love of God, who will live in us, will be part of us, and remain with us always (Jn 14:16). And when the Spirit will be poured into our hearts, we will know, we will experience, what Jesus said in this passage of His prayer to the Father: “On that day, you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you” (14:20).