Who likes playing board games? I am not particularly keen but some of my family members love playing board games; whenever I join in my role is to be habitually humiliated! There is a very popular game, I believe, called ‘Consequences.’ Have any of you ever played it? It’s based on the idea that all actions have consequences and, as we know, actions can very often lead to unintended consequences.
In today’s gospel reading we are privileged to witness something very special indeed: Jesus at prayer. Now several things strike me about the quality of Jesus prayer. The first, and perhaps most obvious is Jesus’ sense of intimacy and unity with the Father: ‘As you Father are in me and I am in you.’ We are of course invited into that self-same intimacy and unity. One of the things we might usefully reflect on this week is the quality of our own prayer life. Is it leading us progressively into a relationship characterised by intimacy? The second thing we might notice is that for Jesus prayer has consequences; intended consequences. Jesus’ own prayer is highly intentional, are our prayers intentional?
In the gospel reading the word ‘so’ is repeated four times. It’s almost as though the prayer is structured around a series of propositions, which are then followed by statements of consequence, for example:
‘As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe you have sent me,’ followed immediately by ‘the glory you have given me I have given them, so that they may, as one as we are one’ and later in the passage with ‘I made your name known to them, and I will make it known so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’
The prayer that we are privileged to witness was, of course, the prayer that Jesus made immediately prior to his betrayal and arrest, which makes it truly remarkable. In the hour of his deepest need Jesus' twofold instinct is to assert the quality of his relationship with the Father and, to pray for his apostles.
What we mustn’t to is the make the mistake of believing that this prayer was just for the apostles who had been with Jesus for the last few years, for the prayer begins with the words ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.’ This prayer is, in other words, for us too and all who are members of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Jesus' final prayer is a universal prayer; one made for all people, in all places, for all time, and the intended consequences of his prayer are that we should know ourselves to be truly beloved by God and that we should have the confidence to step out in faith and keep on telling, or making ‘known’, the Jesus story.
Jesus' final prayer is deeply relational and inherently missional and evangelistic; it is a prayer made to the Father, which we are expected, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to make real in the here and now, just as Paul and Silas did in the account we have heard from the Acts of the Apostles and, like Paul and Silas, that might mean us having to accept a certain amount of ridicule and abuse for our faith. Jesus, you see, didn’t pray for our comfort, or that we might be universally accepted, acknowledged and affirmed by others.
He prayed instead that we might know and experience the love of God in our inner most being and that as a consequence, through our faith, others may know that Jesus is Lord. Jesus' deepest desire was that the consequence of his prayer should be that his name continues to be made ‘known’ by people like you and me. Jesus, you see, wasn’t interested in the privatisation of faith, but rather the sharing of faith.
At the beginning of this homily I suggested that we might like to reflect on the quality of our prayer life and our relationship with God, a relationship that is built primarily through prayer. This week can I also ask you to reflect on how you are helping to keep telling the Jesus story and making Jesus known to your friends and neighbours?
Let us pray: ‘Loving God draw us this day and every day into an ever deeper and more loving relationship with you. Through the work of your Holy Spirit inspire us to keep telling the Jesus story, so that others may know that you live, in Jesus Holy name we pray, Amen.’