Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reflections on the Gospel for Easter 7C - John 17

This weekend our Gospel is the third in the series of three readings taken from Jesus’ last address to His disciples – it is known as the final discourse. Jesus has brought together His disciples for the last supper; he has washed their feet (only in John); he has shared bread and wine; he has given them a new commandment – to love one another; he has promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit and finally he breaks into a beautiful prayer during which he prays not only for his disciples, but he prays for us! David Lose writes about this wonderful prayer (known as the High Priestly Prayer): “No more instructions, no more Q&A, no more assurances or predications. Jesus just prays, asking his heavenly Father to draw the disciples into the relationship the Father and Son already enjoy, that they – Father, Son, disciples – may be as one. But then he extends his prayer, actually breaks it wide open until it stretches beyond the room, city, region, and even the time and history they occupy. ‘And I ask not only on behalf of these,’ Jesus prays, ‘but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.’

“Did you hear that? Two thousand years ago, understandably focused on his impending suffering and death, Jesus nevertheless turns his attention to us, actually prays for us. Jesus prays, in fact, for all those of every time and place who will come to believe through the testimony of his disciples, and that includes us... And right there, in a heartbeat, the distance between the stories the Bible tells and our own stories collapses. Suddenly, what's going on in the biblical story isn't way back then, it's right here and now, as Jesus prays for us – for our ups and down, our hopes and disappointments, our aspirations and commitments, our yearning for meaning and need for purpose. Right there. Right then. Right now.”

And what does Jesus pray? That those who call themselves by his name, those who believe and follow him might be drawn into the life of the Holy Trinity. This is a life of grace, love and presence; this is a life of reflecting and giving back the gifts which God has given us. And the more we give away the more we have to give away.

My internship supervisor once told a story of how, as a child, he loved chocolate pudding. One time when his mother had made it he decided that to prevent any of his brothers and sisters from getting any of it he would take it out of the refrigerator and hide it so they could not find it. The problem was – he hid it so well he couldn’t find it himself. Weeks went by. One day his mother opened a very remote cabinet and there in the back was the chocolate pudding – now all dry and moldy. It was no longer edible. By seeking to hoard for himself he didn’t get any of his favorite dessert.

How often are we inclined to do that with the gifts which God gives to us? God’s gifts are for us to give away – as much as possible. Our calling is to live lives that reflect the love and grace of God; to recognize that all that we are and all that we have is God’s. May we always recognize all that God has given to us; and may we always enthusiastically give God’s gifts away to others.

Footnotes: Professor David Lose, on WorkingPreacher.org

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