Homily preached at Winmalee on Sunday 1st June 2014
By Br Simeon EFO
For some these words may be truly alarming, if not shocking: “I pray for them. I don’t pray for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
Is Jesus really saying that there are people in the world he doesn’t pray for? Really? If we take the passage out of its context, then yes, it does seem to say exactly that. And there are many in the world today who gleefully do this. They take a passage out of its context and then use it as proof, justification, or as a weapon against others they don’t like, or want to marginalise. To those people I would say stop for a moment and ask. Do your actions indicate that Jesus would be including you among those he’s praying for here?
But if we put the passage back into its context, then we understand that Jesus was talking about his disciples. Those who had diligently followed him around Judea for three or so years. Who had been with him from the beginning and who now were going to be left alone and suffer the cruelty of the pagan world. Jesus was asking God to remember them and not abandon them. This is powerful and lasting prayer. It speaks eloquently of fidelity and service, about love and sanctity. But one would not see this at first glance, especially if one takes the verse out of its important context as I did at the beginning of the homily.
Jesus goes on to say this:
10 All things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them through your name which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are.
What does he mean when he says: “I am no more in the world?” Well quite simply that he will no longer be physically present in our world. He will be ascending to return to God. Earlier in the week, in the churches calendar, we celebrated ascension, when Jesus passed from the sight of his disciples.
For them it must have been a traumatic moment. They were alone and bereft. They only just got used to him being back, and then he goes away again. It is a testament to their faith that they continued spreading the good news, and that some 2000 years later we still celebrate the faith and recall their devotion and discipleship.
Yet in his prayer, we see Jesus’s love and concern for the disciples. He prays that they will be one with the Father, he is saying that they to will be glorified by God and enter into the joy and love that is the Holy Trinity. A special and unique prayer, for a very unique band of people. But people who, today, we believe we are part of. Through our discipleship, our following Jesus and his teaching, then we also lay claim to be part of the prayer he prayed all those years ago.
And how do we know this? Because Jesus said it: listen: “They were yours, and you have given them to me. They have kept your word. 7 Now they have known that all things whatever you have given me are from you, 8 for the words which you have given me I have given to them, and they received them, and knew for sure that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.”
If we say, as we do, that we believe the words Jesus spoke, gave us, then we are part of the group of people he is praying for. But we have to receive the words and in that reception we have to do. We have to live as he taught. That as I often say, is a very hard road to walk along. We need to rely and draw on the prayer and promise that Jesus says and makes here. This is hard, but then the journey of a Christian sometimes is hard.
Jesus, the disciples and history have all shown us just how hard the life of the faith can be. But we are sure, we believe, that the words we hear and are given, are truth, the way and the life. We hold fast to the knowledge that we will be united with God, and that makes the journey worth it. This is what drove the disciples to continue when he was no longer physically present, and if we are honest with ourselves, it is what drives us on today. Amen.