Tuesday, May 10, 2016


“And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated. I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way, I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:32-35

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.  John 17:15-18

The Easter words of Emmaus ring out even louder as the days of Easter season wind to a flaming, ordinary close.  Stay with us.  Stay with me.  Not only do the disciples want to hold onto their Rabbouni, but the Master-Teacher also wants to remain in union with them.  Before this prayer, Jesus presented them with the gift of union, the sacrament of a union in the Eucharist.  At the end of this prayer, Jesus goes out and is arrested. The physical union will be near impossible.  What is left is what remains offered to us – spiritual union.

The passage in John 17 is commonly referred to as The Prayer of Jesus.  We also might call the passage in Acts the Prayer of Paul for in both passages, a message is delivered to give hope, inspiration and strength to the disciples before the Teacher/Servant Leader departs. The notes from the New American Bible give context to John 17. 

The climax of the last discourse(s). Since the sixteenth century, this chapter has been called the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus. He speaks as intercessor, with words addressed directly to the Father and not to the disciples, who supposedly only overhear. Yet the prayer is one of petition, for immediate (Jn 17:6–19) and future (Jn 17:20–21) disciples. Many phrases reminiscent of the Lord’s Prayer occur. Although still in the world (Jn 17:13), Jesus looks on his earthly ministry as a thing of the past (Jn 17:4, 12). Whereas Jesus has up to this time stated that the disciples could follow him (Jn 13:33, 36), now he wishes them to be with him in union with the Father (Jn 17:12–14).[i]

Resurrection permitted the physical union to last another 50 days.  After Ascension, only a spiritual union is possible through completion of all degrees of Initiation.  Once cleansed through baptism and reconciliation, we unite daily and weekly with Jesus and the community in prayer and sacramentally through Eucharist and confirmation. 

Jesus wants us to stop hanging onto his physical self but hang onto his actual words and put them into action in the world.  We do that the same way Saint Paul did – serving the needs of our companions and helping the people who are weakest.

Maybe we have monasteries and convents and Catholic Worker Houses to be examples of this new type of power and authority in the world.  The Prayer of Jesus sets aside his leadership from the leadership of the world.  The prayer of Paul is also rooted in service, not kingship. We are consecrated in a new truth that rejects power and its trappings so that we are not trapped by wealth or authority.  As Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB writes:

Like Christ, this leader does not lead with brute force. This leader understands the leavening process. This leader, called appropriately abbot or abbess or prioress, is a spiritual parent, a catalyst for the spiritual and psychological growth of the individual monastic, not a border guard or a warden. This leader is not a parent who terrorizes a child into submission; this leader believes in the best and gives people the opportunities to make the mistakes that lead to growth.

The prioress and abbot provide an environment that confronts the monastic with the presence of God that shows them the Way. After that, it is up to the monastic to let the practices of the community and the rhythm of the prayer life work their way until the piercing good of God rises in them like yeast in bread.[ii]

She reminds us to “[e]liminate whatever you would be tempted to idolize, no matter how worthy the object. The role of the spiritual leader, in other words, is not to make martinets out of people; it is to lead them to spiritual adulthood where they themselves make the kind of choices that give life depth and quality.” 

Jesus cannot stay with us if we crowd him out with material goods, a quest for corporate power, or jealousy.  What choices does The Prayer of Jesus lead you to reconsider? What higher power speaks to you? Can we be more Thomas Moore and less Thomas Dewey…more Thomas Merton and less Thomas Jefferson?

No comments: