The Gospel of St John 17:20-26

On this last Sunday before Pentecost, the Gospel text for Mass is always from the 17th chapter of St John’s Gospel. This chapter comes at the conclusion of what is known as Our Lord’s ‘Farewell Discourse’ – a lengthy ‘speech’ he delivers to his disciples at the Last Supper.

The whole of this 17th chapter, from which our Gospel today is taken, is a prayer Jesus makes to God the Father. It is known as the Priestly Prayer of Jesus – ‘priestly’ because, as the word means, he is interceding with God on others’ behalf.  At the end of the prayer, Jesus and his disciples depart for the Garden of Gethsemane where, eventually, he is arrested.

The Prayer falls into three parts: Jesus prays first for himself ; then he prays for his disciples; and, finally, he prays for people who in the future will come to believe in him through the ‘words’ or teaching of the disciples. Our reading today takes up this third part.

Permeating this Prayer are several important themes. The first is Jesus’ claim that he comes from God the Father and has been sent to do the Father’s work on earth. There, in a nutshell, is Our Lord’s answer to the question:  who is Jesus? Our acceptance of this claim is the starting point of Christian faith.

The second noteworthy theme concerns the close union – or unity – that Jesus experiences with the Father. He prays that this intimate closeness be extended not just to his disciples but to all who, in the future, will come to believe in him. He wants the love of God the Father that is already in him to be in all who believe in him.

And, finally, Jesus asks that just as he came to make the love of the Father known, the Father would strengthen the disciples and future generations of believers to carry on this work. This remains the essential task or mission of not just the worldwide Church but of every parish church like ours as well. Through our closeness with Christ and, through him, our closeness with the Father, we – you and I – are to carry on Jesus’ mission of making the presence and love of God known to others.

In conclusion we might ask: am I aware of the obligation to offer my talents and resources to enable my parish to do the work Christ has given us to do? And is there something more I personally can do to contribute to this Christ-given mission? As the opening hymn proclaimed: ‘all are welcome’ …

Michael Campion
Holy Name, Jesmond
2 June 2019