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SUNDAY REFLECTION : Let they may all be one (May 26, 2019)

SIXTH SUNDAY OF RESURRECTION

Let they may all be one. (John 17: 20-26)

 

Bible Text

 

(20) “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, (21) so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. (22) And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, (23) I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. (24) Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (25) Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. (26) I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

 

Interpretation

 

This gospel passage of Jesus is a continuation of the last discourse of Jesus to his apostles on the night before his crucifixion. Though Jesus was addressing this to his beloved apostles, the last section given in chapter 17 was addressed to his Father. So this section has been known since the 16th century as “high priestly prayer.” They were educative for the apostles. They were for the love and unity of his immediate (John 17:6-19) and future (John 17:20-21) disciples.

 

(20) “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

 

After foreseeing the crises and needs of the immediate disciples in the early church, Jesus was also interceding to the Father for his future disciples including us. This prayer presumed that the disciples of Jesus would hand over the words of Jesus to the succeeding generations to keep and spread the faith in God through Jesus Christ. So the prayer of Jesus was for the future believers who would receive the word of God through the immediate and succeeding disciples of Jesus. Hence, all believes at all times and all over the world were included in this prayer.

 

(21) so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.

 

they may all be one

The unity of Christians was the wish and prayer of Jesus. Disunity of his believers would destroy his church. Once the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting our demons with the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demon, Jesus taught a general principle that “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand.” (Matthew 12:23-24). Satan created division in the intimate relationship of God and the first parents. Satan and his team continue creating division among the people and it shall persist in the world until the second coming of Christ.

 

God had promised through Prophet Jeremiah that He will bring back the Israelites to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile and “I will give them one heart and one way, so that they will always fear Me for their own good and for the good of their children after them.” (Jeremiah 32:39). This “one way” was loyalty of all people to the one and only God of Israel. Jesus was praying for the realization of this promise in his disciples. Jesus wished to bring all his sheep together as “one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16).

 

Disunity can happen anytime as it happened in the early church. However, we have to learn how they resolved the issues. The following are some examples:

 

1. There were signs of disunity among the apostles of Jesus during his public ministry. Jesus resolved that by instructing them lessons of service by his teaching and actions like washing the feet of his disciples. When the sons of Zebedee, along with their mother, approached Jesus for the privilege to sit at the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom, he told the disciples: “whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28).

 

2. There was great unity and common sharing in the early Christian community (Acts 2:44). “The community of believers was of one heart and mind.” (Acts 4:32). However, at a later stage disunity developed in the church. “The Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” (Acts 6:1). The apostles resolved this issue by appointing seven deacons (Acts 6:2-7).

 

3. Another issue was a debate that started by some Jewish Christians arguing that the Gentile converts to Christianity were to be circumcised according to Mosaic practice (Acts 15:1). So, the early church held a Council in Jerusalem and resolved by Peter’s conclusion that all are saved not by circumcision, but through the grace of the Lord Jesus.

 

4. St. Paul wrote to resolve the groupism and rivalries in the church of Corinth. Different groups claimed that they belong to Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or Christ (1Cor 1:12). He wrote: “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” (1Cor.1:10).

 

one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you

Though the prayer was addressed to the father, it had a didactic impact for the disciples. Jesus presented union of Jesus and his Father as the model of unity among the followers of Jesus. Though Jesus and the Father are independent, they are in perfect union. So also, there should be harmony in every Christian family, local church, and the universal church.

 

that they also may be in us

Jesus said: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23). So, a true lover of Jesus who keeps the word of God has the privilege to have the dwelling of Jesus and the Father in him. In God, we all become one body.

 

that the world may believe that you sent me.

When Christians are united with the bond of divine love, there will be great Christian witnessing. Others will realize that the brotherhood of Christians is of divine origin. So, non-believers in the world will believe that Jesus, in whose name Christians live in harmony, are from God. The loving bond of the early Christian community had such an impact. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind.” (Acts 4:32). “More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” (Acts 5:14). Disunity in the church would result in an opposite impact. That was the reason for Jesus praying for the unity of the believers.

 

(22) And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,

 

In this verse, Jesus says that he received glory from the Father. He shared that to his disciples for the unity of the faithful according to the model of the unity of Jesus and his Father. To understand this statement, we need to analyze the meaning of glory in the Bible.

 

The glory of God has various shades of meaning according to the context of its usage.

 

1. God’s glory is fully manifested in heaven. St. Stephen saw the glory of God in heaven from the earth before his martyrdom (Acts 7:55). Jesus, being God, also shares this glory.

 

2. The heavens and the earth, that God created, manifest the glory of God. According to Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.”

 

3. Humans had shared the glory of God as they are wonderful creations of God. “All who are called by my name I created for my glory; I formed them, made them.” (Isaiah 43:7). Though God created all, the chosen people were created by God for his glory. According to Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” Since we are deprived of this glory because of sin, Jesus came to restore it.

 

4. Jesus was the manifestation of God’s glory among us. According to John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The shekinah, the glorious and visible manifestation of God in the form of radiant cloud or brilliant light within a cloud, was missing in the Temple since the Babylonian exile. It had returned in human flesh in Jesus.

 

5. The miracles of Jesus were to reveal the glory of God. Thus was the first miracle at Cana (John 2:11). Regarding the sickness of Lazarus, Jesus said: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4). So through the miracles, the Father glorified the Son also.

 

6. Jesus shared his glorious power to his disciples to preach the word of God and to perform miracles. He sent them with these words: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:7-8). Thus Jesus shared his glorious power and mission to his disciples as they were entrusted to Jesus by the Father. Jesus prayed that they be united in continuing his mission.

 

(23) I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

 

According to Jesus, the unity of his followers is essential for the world to know the divine origin of Jesus, their master. Jesus was emphasizing this by repeating it.

 

you loved them even as you loved me.

The Father loves his Son Jesus and those who have followed him. Because of the merits of Jesus, the disciples were also united in the love of the Father.

 

(24) Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

 

they are your gift to me.

The believers come to faith by the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Jesus considers each believer as his gift from the Father.

 

I wish that where I am they also may be with me

Since Jesus came to rescue humanity by offering his life as a ransom, his wish is that the believers join him in heaven where he sits at the right hand of his Father. That is the purpose of his second coming.

 

that they may see my glory that you gave me

Jesus would like his followers to witness the glory he has in heaven offered by his Father. St. Stephen saw that even from the earth before his martyrdom. “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55).

 

because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

“The foundation of the world” refers to God’s act of creation. “Before” the foundation of the world, goes even further to the past eternity before God “created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1). According to St. Paul, God the Father has blessed us in Christ and “chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.” (Ephesians 3:1-4). “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (2 Timothy 1:9).  So, even before creation, God had selected his faithful through his plan of redemption through his Son who was with him and whom he loved.

 

(25) Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me.

 

Righteous Father

Jesus qualifies the Father as righteous. Righteousness stands for justice. This term is used for Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:6), Joseph, husband of Mary (Matthew 1:19), Simeon (Luke 2:25), Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50) and many others. They were righteous because they were living according to the laws of God. Jesus was righteous in a more prefect sense because he was God and free from sin. Even the centurion who was in charge of the crucifixion of Jesus witnessed immediately after the death of Jesus that he was innocent or righteous (Luke 23:47). Jesus declared that the Father is perfect in righteousness and source of all righteousness is the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-10).

 

the world also does not know you

The world stands for those who are not the followers of Jesus, especially those who persecute the Christians. Because the worldly people do not know the Father or the divine origin of Jesus, they persecute the Christians because of the name of Jesus (John 15:21, 16:3).

 

I know you, and they know that you sent me.

Since Jesus came from the Father, he knew the Father. The disciples came to realize that the Father sent the son. That is why Peter confessed “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus had the satisfaction that even though the secular world did not know the origin and mission of Jesus, the disciples had recognized him as the Son of God sent to the world as promised to the first parents and renewed throughout the salvation history.

 

(26) I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

 

I made known to them your name

Jesus revealed the Father to his disciples. Name stands for the identity of a person. Jesus had revealed the love of God for humanity by obeying his father to redeem the world through his passion, death, and resurrection. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

 

I will make it known,

Jesus was leaving the disciples the next day by his self-sacrifice. So the future revelation was through the Holy Spirit. Jesus had promised his disciples: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26).

 

that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.

While teaching the parable of the vine and branches, Jesus said: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10). So, as the Father loved the Son, so Jesus loved us, and we need to remain in the love of Jesus.

 

Message

 

1. As humans, we have a natural tendency for division and conflicts because of the presence and influence of the evil in this world. Church is no exception. However, the differences were resolved with the grace of God and proper intervention of the responsible people. Let us continue with Jesus to pray for the unity of Christians.

 

2. Christian unity is essential for good witnessing and to attract non-believers and growing generations to the church. So, let us be vigilant to keep up the love and unity in our families, parishes, and the church at large.

 

3. Jesus foresaw disunity in the church created by the evil one. This could include dispute between couples, parents and children, siblings, in-laws, factions in the parishes or even between Christian communities. Let us remember the words of Jesus: “Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24).

 

4. When there are ego clashes, let us remember the lesson of service that Jesus taught us: “Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28).

 

5. In the first Council of Jerusalem, Peter’s concluding message on the resolution of the debate on circumcision was unanimously accepted. Let us also acknowledge and obey the directions and decisions of the church authorities who are responsible representatives of Jesus, the head of the church.

 

6. Jesus promised that if we love him and keep his word, Jesus and his Father will dwell in us and we will become one body with God. Let us be lovers and keepers of the Word of God.

 

History

History of St. Thomas SyroMalabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, established by His Holiness Pope John Paul II on March 13, 2001.

 

Liturgical Calendar

SyroMalabar Church Liturgical Seasons and Mass Readings in English and Malayalam

 

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Contact Us

Click here to contact St. Thomas SyroMalabar Diocese. Address: 372 South Prairie Ave, Elmhurst, Illinois 60126. Phone: +1-630-279-1383

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