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JESUSFAREWELL SPEECH

Read­ing Time: 10 minutes

(Ref. Texts: Acts 7:55–60; Rev. 22:12–14.16–17.20; John 17:20–26)

Good­byes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as sep­ar­a­tion” (Rumi).

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave foot­prints on our hearts, and we are nev­er, ever the same” (Flavia Weedn). 

Introduction

With the ascen­sion of Jesus after forty days of his resur­rec­tion, the stage is now set for the Twelve apostles to begin their mis­sion. Before his ascen­sion, John deems it neces­sary to doc­u­ment Jesus’ will and wish, his desire for his dis­ciples and for Chris­ti­ans. In the Gos­pel accord­ing to John, the sev­en­teenth chapter is quite dif­fer­ent. In 17:1–5, Jesus prays for him­self, dwells on his glor­i­fic­a­tion and the glor­i­fic­a­tion of the Fath­er; in 17:6–19, he prays spe­cific­ally for the dis­ciples; then in 17:20–26, he also prays for all believ­ers. That is, for those who will believe through the apostles. John 17 is Jesus’ wish for the world for whom he sac­ri­ficed his life. Being one means not ren­der­ing fruit­less the mis­sion and sac­ri­fice of Jesus. This Sunday Gos­pel read­ing is Jesus’ pray­er for us. It must be linked with the pray­er for the apostles.

Depend­ing on their litur­gic­al arrange­ment and agree­ment too, for some Cath­ol­ics, this Sunday is the Ascen­sion Sunday, while for oth­ers, it is the Sev­enth Sunday of the Paschal cel­eb­ra­tion. Since Niger­ia observed the ascen­sion on Thursday, our reflec­tion is on the read­ings of the sev­enth Sunday of Pascha. In keep­ing to Jesus’ instruc­tion, the apostles trav­elled back to Jer­u­s­alem after wit­ness­ing the def­in­ite depar­ture of Jesus from this earth, after his mis­sion and resur­rec­tion. They were to wait in Jer­u­s­alem until they are crowned and empowered with the Holy spir­it (cf. Acts 1:4–5). The sev­en­teenth chapter of the Gos­pel accord­ing to John is nor­mally described as Jesus’ farewell speech to the Twelve Apostles. It is the “Testament/Will” he left for them. In Mat­thew (6:9–13) and Luke (11:2–4), he taught his dis­ciples how to pray, but here in John, he prays for him­self and on their behalf.

On the sev­enth Sunday of Pascha, the Gos­pel read­ing is always taken from the Gos­pel accord­ing to John, chapter 17. It is the con­clu­sion of Jesus’ Farewell Dis­course to the dis­ciples dur­ing the Last Sup­per. The entire chapter is about the pray­er of Jesus, com­mend­ing him­self to the Fath­er and express­ing his care and con­cern for his dis­ciples. At the end of this pray­er, Jesus and his dis­ciples depart for the garden, and Jesus him­self is arrested.

If you have been by the side of someone dur­ing the last moments of his/her life, you will def­in­itely remem­ber how touch­ing his/her last words could be. Jesus knows his hour has come not to die because hav­ing ris­en from the dead, death has no power over him again, but to return to His Fath­er. Hence, he instructs and con­soles his dis­ciples. His final or farewell speech, is a mix­ture of instruc­tions, pray­er, and good wishes, which if kept, the dis­ciples (and believ­ers) will be suc­cess­ful in their mis­sion and vocations.

May they be one

Holy Fath­er, pro­tect them in your name that you have giv­en me, so that they may be one, as we are one. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Fath­er, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…” (John 17:11.20–21). The phrase “Holy Fath­er”, found only here in the entire Chris­ti­an (New) Test­a­ment[1] expresses the awe­some­ness of God (cf. Ps 111:9). It alludes to the remote­ness and imme­di­ate­ness of God. God is both awe-inspir­ing and lov­ing. Jesus’ request to God to pro­tect the dis­ciples by the power of his name is a recog­ni­tion of the won­drous nature of the name of God (cf. 1Sam 17:45 Ps 5:11; Ezek 20:9). It is because there is power in the name of God that there is also power in the name of Jesus. No won­der Jesus says he is in the Fath­er and the Fath­er in him. Again, that who­ever believes in him believes not in him but in Him who sent him. In oth­er words, to call on the name of Jesus is to call on the name of He who sent him. That is, God. It is this theo­lo­gic­al fusion between Jesus and the Fath­er, that he expects from his dis­ciples. They must be one. And there is no altern­at­ive to this demand. Chris­ti­ans, take note!

The first and imme­di­ate effect of remain­ing in Jesus the good shep­herd (cf. John 10:11–18) and the true vine (cf. John 15:1–8), and of being faith­ful by lov­ing him in keep­ing his com­mand­ment (cf. John 15:9–17), is unity. That they may be one (Greek: hina ōsin en) is a pur­pose clause with hina (that) and the present act­ive sub­junct­ive of the verb to be (Greek: eimi), which indic­ates one­ness of will and spir­it. The pray­er and wish is that the dis­ciples may keep on being one. One­ness is the only key to a suc­cess­ful mis­sion and peace­ful liv­ing. The dis­ciples had uni­on (organ­ic uni­on or unity of per­son), but lacked unity or one­ness of spir­it as was shown dur­ing the even­ing of the last sup­per (Luke 22:24; cf. John 13:4–15). Jesus offers as the mod­el of this unity, the unity between him and God. Hence, the Trin­it­ari­an unity. That is, the mod­el of the unity in the Trin­ity (three per­sons, but one God) should serve as the mod­el for believ­ers. Such unity is the fruit of Jesus’ act­ive work of “keep­ing” and “guard­ing”, which res­ul­ted in believ­ers being filled with joy. Such joy is rooted in the truth of God’s word, which involves the “sanc­ti­fic­a­tion” of believ­ers. That is, sanc­ti­fic­a­tion in the sense of con­sec­rat­ing believ­ers to ser­vice, thereby becom­ing wit­ness to the word that the world may believe (cf. John 17:21), and by believ­ing, may have etern­al life. Without har­mony, the wit­ness of the dis­ciples will def­in­itely fail (cf. John 17:21). With this pray­er then (that they may be one just as we are one), Jesus shows the kind of pro­found unity that should exist among believ­ers. Does this king of unity really exist among Chris­ti­ans? What is the mod­el of the unity among mem­bers of the Christ faithful?

Unity and Love

In his pray­er, Jesus desires and expects two things from the future believ­ers – unity (cf. John 17: 21–23) and love (cf. John 17:26). In John 10:16 and 11:52, the dream of a united and uni­fied people of God had already been expressed. These same char­ac­ter­ist­ics dis­tin­guish the bond between the Son and the Fath­er. Love implies unity and unity pre­sup­poses love. Giv­en the varie­gated nature of future believ­ers, Jesus’ pray­er for love and unity became a con­di­tio sine qua non for mutu­al liv­ing. After two thou­sand years, has Jesus’ pray­er and desire been actu­al­ized? In Acts of the Apostles (2:44–45 and 4:32–37), it seems the prim­it­ive (early) Chris­ti­ans achieved Jesus’ pray­er. But it appears such com­mun­al liv­ing did not last. In the same Acts of the Apostles (5:1–11), Anani­as and his wife Sap­phira sab­ot­aged and thwarted that com­mu­nion. How­ever, what happened to Anani­as and Sap­phira must have been an import­ant les­son to oth­er mem­bers of the com­munity, and they must have con­tin­ued in love and unity. How about the con­tem­por­ary com­munity of believ­ers? The unity of believ­ers is a product of their being united in God (cf. John 10:38; 14:10–11; 15:4–5). Once uni­fied, Chris­ti­ans will be able to bear wit­ness to the true iden­tity of Jesus as the One sent by God.

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