JESUS PRAYS THAT HIS FOLLOWERS WILL ALWAYS BE UNITED
(A biblical refection on THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR C] – 2 June 2019)
Gospel Reading: John 17:20-26
First Reading: Acts 7:55-60; Psalms: Ps 97:1-2,6-7,9; Second Reading: Rev 22:12-14,16-17,20
The Scripture Text
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. The glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and Thou in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me and hast loved them even as Thou hast loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast has given Me, may be with Me where I am, to behold My glory which Thou hast given Me in Thy love for Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known Thee, but I have known Thee; and these know that Thou hast Me. I made known to them Thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26 RSV)
When you love someone, you want to be with and share your life with that person. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that He loves us so much He wants to share His own divine life with us. He wants to be part of our lives and wants us to be part of His. This is what makes our God different from the other gods of the religions of the world. From the beginning of time, there haven’t been many other religions able to claim that their god wanted to establish a close and loving relationship with human beings. Most other religions stressed the strength of their gods. Only Jews, Christians, and Moslems worship a God who is both powerful and loving.
We can compare the close relationship between God and His people to the loving relationship between a husband and wife. Many times, the Old Testament portrays God as a bridegroom and the Jewish people as His beautiful bride. The books of Hosea and the Song of Songs both rely heavily on this imagery.
The New Testament continues this theme, telling us that Jesus spoke of Himself as a bridegroom (e.g., Matthew 25:1-13) and sometimes described the Kingdom of God as a fantastic wedding celebration open to all who believe in Him (e.g., Luke 12:35-40).
Even the way we divide the Bible into two testaments reminds us of God’s desire to establish a deeply loving relationship with us. A “testament” is a covenant or agreement in which both parties choose to share their lives with each other in a relationship based on love. Thus, the Old Testament is about the close and loving relationship between God and the Jewish people. (We might be more accurate if we call it the Older Testament because this relationship has not ended but continues to this day.) The New Testament (or Newer Testament) is about the close land loving relationship between God and the followers of Jesus, the Church.
The part of today’s Gospel reading that should challenge all Christians is the part in which Jesus prays that His followers will always be united. Apparently, this prayer has not been answered because today the Church is divided into Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodist, Presbyterians, and dozens of other denominations. Not only are the divisions according to ideologies but sometimes along racial and ethnic lines as well. In the United States, some Christian churches are exclusively for Black people, others are only for White people, and others are for any nationality under the sun. These ideological, racial, and ethic differences make Sunday the most segregated day of the week. We are a long way from the ideal Jesus prayed for.
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 270-271.)
Prayer: Almighty, ever-living God, we pray for Christian unity. We also pray that we will one day be able to put aside our ideological, ethnic, and racial differences and worship You – our God – together. Just as love binds Jesus and You as His heavenly Father, we, as Christians, must let love bind us together. Raise us up as witnesses to the world, inviting everyone to discover Your transforming love available through Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Jakarta, 31 May 2019
A Christian Pilgrim