A Homily – The Gospel of John 17:20-26 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.05.08

 

A Prayer for Understanding

 

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,

I pray not only for these,

but for those also

who through their words will believe in me.

May they all be one.

Father, may they be one in us,

as you are in me and I am in you,

so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.

I have given them the glory you gave to me,

that they may be one as we are one.

With me in them and you in me,

may they be so completely one

that the world will realise that it was you who sent me

and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me

to be with me where I am,

so that they may always see the glory you have given me

because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Father, Righteous One,

the world has not known you,

but I have known you,

and these have known that you have sent me.

I have made your name known to them

and will continue to make it known,

so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,

and so that I may be in them.

(NJB)

Confusion in the Gospels

There are passages in scripture, and there are many of them, in which the Gospels provide the reader, or the listener, with only a tangled and confused set of words and concepts that do little to shed light on anything good or meaningful.

This is one of those passages.

It is nearly impossible to get an accurate bead on their meaning.

Let us set aside for a moment that John’s Gospel, of the four, has the least concern for historical accuracy. The Gospel was written more than one hundred years after his death. It is likely that this event never happened, that Jesus never spoke these words in this way. Though it is possible he said something like it, but that is neither here nor there.

This meandering passage does represent the thoughts and feelings of John’s community at the end of the first century CE. It fully represents the mystical and mysterious way in which Christians had come to see the life of Jesus, and Jesus’s relationship to God, the creator of the Universe. It does this in terms that have a connection to some of the prevailing philosophical beliefs regarding the metaphysical structure of reality, but does nothing to explicate the system of beliefs it is specifically engaging.

This has been a burden on the faith over the centuries and millennia, and should be struck from the cannon. It is impossible for us to know what the Gospel writers meant, what the limits of their thinking was, never mind the fact that the philosophies of the ancient world, their metaphysical systems, were false, were wrong, were errant, there is little in those thought systems that can help us understand ourselves, the world we live in, or our relationship to the divine.

We can glean from this passage is this:

Jesus prayed to God on behalf of his followers that they would understand both his mission, and the mission that he was passing on to them.

He prayed for their unity.

He prayed that they love one another, and that the message they carried forward in his name was one of love.

This Gospel passage has the appearance of being directed specifically to Christians, and that is unfortunate because the mission of Jesus crossed all boundaries; sectarian, national, ethnic, and gender.

This Gospel passage is overly concerned with the message regarding the identity of Jesus, it is dogmatic, it pushes the message of who John’s community believed Jesus was, over the mission to preach the love of God. That was not what Jesus himself taught. In this way the Gospel deviates from the faith.

Who Jesus was in the world, and what we believe about that is not germane, and has no bearing on the Christian life. We need to concern ourselves with how Jesus was in the world and living a loving life according to that standard.

7th Sunday of Easter

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