To say that John 17 is “a compelling read” is the understatement of the week! Jesus prays nearly continuously through what is called “the Last Supper Discourse.” He eventually prays (vv. 20-26) for all those who, through the influence of the first-disciples, came to believe in Christ as Lord. Each one of us is among those Jesus is praying for here. How amazing is that!
In this prayer, Jesus prays above all for unity among His disciples as the most effective sign of “witness.” As He had told His disciples earlier: “By this will all know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.”
He prays that we may display deep unity among ourselves and with Him, the kind of unity that binds Jesus and the Father. Again, it is through the love that Christians, coming as we do from so many diverse backgrounds and all classes of people, show for each other that we give the most effective witness to the message of Christ.
It is said that, in the early Church, people marveled, “See those Christians, how they love each other.” In a world that was divided along so many lines, people were amazed to see Jews and Greeks, men and women, slaves and freemen, and rich and poor sharing a common community life in love and forgiveness and mutual support. It clearly would lead people to ask what was “the secret” of this group.
Is that the witness that we are giving today? What do people see when they look at our parish? What do they see when they look at our families? What are they to think of the painful divisions of so many groups who claim Jesus as their Lord? Are we willing to let the words of Jesus’ heartfelt prayer touch us and draw us more and more together? How can we not?