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 address he makes to his disciples at the Last Supper. The whole of this chapter is in the form of a prayer he 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 he later will be arrested.

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

Several themes permeate this Priestly Prayer. The first is Jesus’ claim to have come from God to do the Father’s work on earth. There, in a nutshell, is Our Lord’s answer to the question:  who is Jesus? He has been sent to us from God and our acceptance of this Divine origin is the starting point of Christian faith.

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

And, finally, just as he has made the love of God known, he asks the Father to strengthen these disciples and future generations of believers to carry on this work of making God’s love better known. To the question: what is the Church for? Jesus says its members are his Body on earth to make the love of God known, as he has done. This remains the essential mission of not just the whole Church but of every parish or community that belongs to him. We are to carry on Jesus’ mission of making the presence and love of God known to others.

So in response to Jesus’ prayer, we might ask: can I do more in my personal life to convey, in a non-invasive or over-evangelical way, this Divine love of which Jesus speaks. It is a love that does not discriminate or condemn. Do my principles and actions live up to this in the way I think about and treat others?

We might ask also: how might I offer my talents and resources to help my parish to be the kind of community where people can experience the welcome, acceptance and love of Jesus? And, lastly, do I know of someone who might enjoy being part of our community as our varying social and spiritual activities are resuming now the pandemic has abated?    

Michael Campion
Holy Name, Jesmond
29 May 2022

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