(A commentary on John 17: 11-19)
And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (John 17: 11-19)
On the same night that he was to be beaten and ridiculed, Jesus Christ was focused on those who believed in him.
He knew the next 24 hours would be incredibly hard. He knew the cross lay ahead. But he did not pause to think about himself. He thought of his disciples. He sought to reassure them in his prayer to his father.
Jesus Christ, as God, did not exist within the constraints of earthly time. As he prayed for his immediate followers, he prayed for all those who would come to believe in him. You and I are in that group.
The words that we read today speak to us in our time.
Jesus stresses not once but twice that he doesn’t belong to the world and we shouldn’t belong to the world, emphasizing that we do not belong to the world “any more” than he does. Those are extraordinary words. He says that we’re supposed to have the same relationship to the world that he does and that we shouldn’t belong to the world any more than he.
What does that mean for us?
There are many times that when I look about this world, I feel like looking for the nearest door. But I know that I can’t and neither should you.
When he says that his kingdom does not belong to this world, he is indicating that his rule will not tolerate the sin and evil which characterize much of our present experience. Jesus’ purpose, however, is not to abandon this world but to save it.
When we understand Christ’s kingdom in this sense, our mission is not to escape from the present world but to change it. This transformation can only come about through God’s action. It will not be complete until Christ returns in glory. But we are able to hasten its arrival by acting in accordance with God’s grace and working against every evil as we await Christ’s final victory. Far from abandoning the present world, we are to infuse it with the love and presence of Christ.
That means that we must find the courage to face the moral issues in our world. Political and corporate institutions have a power which is overwhelming. When we recognize injustice in their policies and directives, it can be easy to go along without voicing our objections or risking our well-being. But St. Paul tells us that God uses the foolish in the world to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong (1 Cor 3:16-23). Therefore, despite our lack of influence and power, we must not be afraid to act and speak for what we know is just.
When we understand that God is asking us to stand up for the dignity of children, the poor, the elderly, or those who wish to immigrate to our country, we cannot ignore the call. When we have an opportunity to oppose the spread of violence, prejudice, or greed, we must not hold back because of the forces which may be arrayed against us.
As followers of Jesus, we begin to promote Christ’s Kingdom when we identify the ways in which power and privilege oppress the most vulnerable among us.
Christ is our King. His kingdom, then, becomes our enterprise. We are called to foster his kingdom by opposing every injustice and protecting every widow. His kingdom does not belong to this world, but to the new world which we can share in building.
That’s you and I. That’s our call and our mission.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, take my life and make it wholly pleasing to you. Sanctify me in your truth and guide me by your Holy Spirit that I may follow you faithfully wherever you lead.”
John Henry Newman (1801-1890) wrote: “God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nothing. Therefore, I will trust him. Whatever, wherever I am. I cannot be thrown away.”