“Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Today we move on to the great chapter 17 of John, which contains the final part of his discourse and Jesus is still with his disciples at the Last Supper. It consists of the High Priestly prayer of Jesus, which has three parts:
– Jesus prays for his own mission;
– He prays for his immediate disciples, who are with him as he prays;
– He prays for all those who in later times will become his disciples.
The time has come for Jesus to offer himself completely to the will of His Heavenly Father. We see how painful it is going to be as He sees the passion ahead of him. He says in the garden of Gethsemane; if it is possible let this chalice pass away from me, but not my will but your will be done. He had spoken to his disciples the baptism that he had to undergo and how eager he is to fulfill it. Knowing the pain and agony, Jesus prays to the Heavenly Father the strength to carry out the Divine Mandate in order to save us from the darkness of sin and alienation form God. He prays that, through his passion, death and resurrection, he may find glory. In John’s gospel Jesus’ glory begins with his passion and the high moment is the moment of his dying on the cross, which is also the moment of resurrection and union with the Father. This glory is not for him but to lead people to glorify God, of whom Jesus is the Revealer and Mediator.
He prays that all he does may lead to people everywhere sharing in the life of God. And what is that life? Jesus tells us in the Gospel that “Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” To know God and to know Jesus is to acknowledge their unique place as the source and end of all we have and are. To know the Father and Jesus is to have as full as possible an understanding of Jesus’ message and to have assimilated it into one’s whole life. The Gospel speaks about the intimate union between the Father and the son. At the Baptism and Transfiguration the Spirit descended and proclaimed; that “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”
To know God in the Gospel sense is to have a deep personal experience of God Who is working in our lives. It involves a close and intimate relationship, which matures eventually into a mutual love and trust. Christian Faith is essentially a ‘believing in’– a total surrender. Jesus is encountered and experienced in a personal relationship. Jesus is the source of life for us and He is the way, the truth and the life. No one can go to the Father except through me. Eternal life is the result of imbibing the Gospel values and establishing a deep personal relationship with Jesus and growing in it by our life of total surrender.
Jesus now prays for his disciples, the “men you took from the world to give me”. Although it was Jesus who chose them, ultimately they are the gift of the Father to help Jesus continue his work on earth. Jesus thanks God that they have recognized that he comes from the Father and that they have accepted his teaching. And, because they belong to Jesus, they also belong to the Father and through them Jesus will receive glory.
Finally, they have been chosen from the world and yet will remain in the world, though not sharing in its values. In fact, they will give glory to Jesus precisely by challenging the values of that world and leading it to the ‘eternal life’ which they have discovered through Jesus and which they have already begun to enjoy.
We thank Jesus for his disciples. We thank them for handing on to us the secret of life. We thank them for the giving of themselves, sometimes through a martyr’s death, to share that secret with us. We recognize that they, like us, had many weaknesses but Jesus still worked through them and through them the world came to know Jesus.
Peter challenges his early Christian audience to accept sufferings as opportunities to identify themselves with Jesus. “Rejoice,” he encourages the newly baptized, “to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ. Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but should glorify God because of the Name.” Both the Jewish and the Gentile Christians had to face persecutions and inner suffering. The Jewish members had to give up many of their long cherished traditions and to suffer the loss of their Jewish friends. The Gentiles had to struggle to give up some of their old ways, such as magic and idolatry, which were incompatible with the Gospel. Although they all considered Jesus the restorer of the kingship of David, they soon discovered that his throne included the cross and suffering as well as joy. Peter is not suggesting that greater Faith will make one impervious to suffering, but that, properly accepted, it can render that suffering salvific. Jesus, the Messiah, that is, the restorer of the glorious kingship of David, a monarch above all suffering, had the cross for His throne, and found his strength in his submission to the evil others did to him. Hence, the believer needs and is meant to use suffering to give meaning to his life by identifying himself with the suffering Jesus.
We need to center our Christian life on prayer: Prayer is one of the most essential elements in order to grow in our relationship with God and be in communion with him. We should try to set aside some time each day to spend with God in prayer. If we are convinced of the presence of God within us, we can talk to him even while we are busy with our daily activities. Our talk with God can include praise and thanksgiving, pleas for forgiveness and prayer for our needs. A few minutes spent in reading the Bible is a good way of listening to God.
We need to glorify Christ by the lives we live: When we live ethical lives, that is, lives of integrity in which our performance is in harmony with our profession of Faith, we are glorifying Jesus. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, a fair deal on a product, a truthful, trustworthy guarantee – all these reflect our integrity. When others see Christians who will not cheat on their income tax, who will stand up for peace with justice, who will love even when it costs, who will stand with the poor and oppressed, who will use their money as a gift from God to bless other lives, who will use their money to guarantee that the Gospel is preached all over the world, we glorify God. We also glorify God by our prayer life and faithful observance of the Lord’s Day. We glorify Jesus by humble and selfless service. Finally, we glorify God by speaking kind, merciful, loving and encouraging words to everyone we encounter in our daily lives.