The following is a reflection by Associate Bonnie Chester.

Could I interest you into sitting down with your Bible, opening it to the Gospel of John and slowly, prayerfully, begin reading Chapter 17. There are numerous times that Jesus’ prayer to God, His Father, are recorded in the Gospels. The words that are probably the most familiar are those He says on the cross: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)  And these last words as He yields His body and soul to God: “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

But the most intimate and special prayers that He says to God, in the presence of His apostles, are the most profound for me. They are found in the 17th chapter of John that I am suggesting that you prayerfully read. The week between the feast of the Ascension and Pentecost, they are proclaimed in the weekday Gospels. When I read the personal prayer of Jesus to His Father, I am allowed into their intimate relationship. When Jesus is speaking to His disciples at the Last Supper, the last words that they will ever hear directed specifically to them are found in this chapter. And if I carefully “read between the lines,” He is speaking to me!

As He addresses God, He is asking for their protection and mine, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17: 14-15). Is Jesus understanding our struggles to live according to the Gospel when everything and everyone in the “world” seem to stand against us? I think He is assuring us of His care and encouragement.

Why do I think I am included in this fervent petition of Jesus? He says: “I ask not only on behalf of these (the disciples) but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” (17:20)  He prays not only for the disciples there at the table, but also those who will believe in him through the disciples’ words. Isn’t that us? Through the disciples’ evangelization, the faith has been passed on and we are the ones “who believe,” aren’t we? Isn’t He praying for us, His disciples, in every age, including us in the present? He is asking His Father to be one with us, to protect us, to bring us joy, and to consecrate us.

I believe that we are really His disciples, just as the original twelve were. Aren’t we being sent also?  “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (17:18) I also read His words to His Father and realize I am His gift— God created me, and gave me as a gift to His Son, Jesus. Jesus prays: “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” (17:6) Lord, You are  asking me to carry on Your word. You know my struggles, my attempts to strengthen my faith. Just hours before Your death, You are telling me You will be with me. You tell your Father: “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (17:23) Thank you as I am sent, by You, and live in Your glory. Amen.

Artwork by Jen Norton Art Studio, used with permission.