The Prayer of Jesus
OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from anawim
2012 We reflect on the conclusion of Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” to the Father, which has been the focus of the Church Prayer for the past three days. On the first day, there was a special emphasis on glory, on the second day, truth; today we see the emphasis on unity. The unity Jesus prays for stands in contrast to the division that disrupts Paul’s trial in the first reading.
Jesus prays for his disciples and for all who will come to believe through their ministry – including all of us who ponder his words today. He prays for unity, a unity that will so perfectly reflect the unity he shares with the Father that when the world sees it they will be moved to faith. “I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”
The disciples who heard this prayer at the Last Supper could not have understood what Jesus meant. They had a hard enough time getting along with each other, even while Jesus was with them. They squabbled over who was the greatest. Now that He is talking about going away, how could they expect to be one as he is one with the Father? Jesus prays “that they may be one, as we are one – I living in them, you living in me – that their unity may be complete.”
Their puzzlement over this prayer remained until the day of Pentecost, which we will celebrate in three days. On Pentecost, people from every nation were gathered in Jerusalem, speaking a wide variety of languages. What could possibly unite this fragmented “Babel” of a city? They could not even speak to each other. The answer came in the rushing wind of the Spirit, who truly made it possible for them to be one in the Lord, speaking the one language of the gospel, which is love in truth. If Jesus had not prayed for unity, and if we did not know the power of the Spirit, we would be tempted to think it could never happen. The world is so hopelessly divided. But on Pentecost, the Church learned that the unity Jesus prayed for – a unity which was clearly a human impossibility – is given to us freely in the Holy Spirit.
Unity is the very reason why Jesus came. His mission is to reconcile us with the Father and with one another (cf. Eph 2:13-18). He himself is love in truth. Anyone who opens his heart to love or to truth encounters God in this way. The opposite is also true: anyone who opposes love or truth, even if he does in the name of God, cuts himself off from God. This is sin, the source of the innumerable divisions in our lives, and in the world. Sin divides us from the Father and from one another.
When Paul is put on trial before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, he finds himself in the middle of a sharply divided assembly. He did not divide them. The Pharisees and Sadducees were already divided over issues of truth; namely, belief in resurrection from the dead and in angels. Paul starts his defense by prudently identifying at least one point on which he is united with the Pharisees, his “hope in the resurrection of the dead.” The resulting uproar prevents the trial from progressing any further. On this occasion, Paul does not get any further opportunity to proclaim the name of Jesus or the full truth of the gospel. In the evening, perhaps he was questioning whether he took the right approach; maybe he even felt that he had failed the Lord. In answer to his questions, Jesus himself appears to him that night and affirms that Paul has given testimony to him. By proclaiming the truth, Paul has proclaimed the gospel, as he must continue to do in Rome.
Unity is built on truth; when people resist the truth, there is division. When we choose to be united with God and to do His will, we can expect to face some division. Someone is going to oppose us – someone in the family, in the neighbourhood, or in our circle of friends. It is not right for us to provoke opposition unnecessarily, or to cause more division by our own sins of stubbornness and pride, but uniting ourselves with the Lord in truth and love is always right. It is essential. Like Paul, we cannot always share the gospel the way we would like to. Sometimes there is no opportunity; sometimes we are facing too much hostility or division. But we can always choose the way of unity in truth and love, in the power of the Spirit. This is already a proclamation of the gospel, and in time will bear abundant fruit.
Do I pray and work for unity? Do I know the difference between the division caused by standing up for truth in love and the division caused by my own sin? How am I divided in my own heart? How does the Spirit work in my life? (Pondering the Word the Anawim Way, April 5, 2012 to May 26, 2012 Cycle B Year 2, May 24, 2012 pp. 264-266)
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