Wed, May 25, 202210 mins readFather Hans Buob

7th Sunday after Easter

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year C

Ⓒ Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

Bible passages


John 17:20-26

"I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them."

Biblical Homilies


"I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word," (cf. verse 20)

This excerpt from John's gospel could be seen as the pastoral concept of love. At the beginning, Jesus looks up to heaven and recites the prayer of the high priest: "Holy Father, I do not pray only for these" - that is, the twelve apostles whom he had just addressed in the Upper Room - "but also for all those who will believe in me through their word.

There is a wonderful thought in these words. Jesus assures the effectiveness of the word of the apostles he sends, will send and has sent. For this word produces faith. So this passage shows once again that we do not come to faith by signs and wonders, but by the word of God, by the word in which the Holy Spirit is at work, by the word of God inspired by the Spirit, for the Spirit produces faith.

"so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." (cf. verse 21)

Jesus knows how threatened the community of believers is. That is why, shortly before his death, he asks the Father, as a last resort, for the unity of his own. It is not a question of organizational unity. The unity he asks for has its origin in the Triune God himself. In this request of Jesus, it is clear that the worst thing that can happen to the body of Christ, to the Church, is disunity that extends to families, parish councils and parish leaders. For if they are all at odds, the world - and the world, in John's view, is the world that does not believe, that is still seeking God - will not recognize that Jesus is sent by God, that he is the Redeemer and the Savior. The prerequisite is therefore unity. And this is in a way the pastoral concept of the Bible.

If I am in charge of a group - whether it is a prayer group or a Bible group, the parish council, the priests with each other or the bishop with the priests, the ordinariate with the bishop or anything else up to the pope - I have to see to it that there is unity first. If there is no unity, the world will not recognize that Christ is sent by the Father and will not recognize him as its Savior. This is a very clear statement. And that is why the first task in pastoral work is always to fight for this unity.

But what does this mean in concrete terms? The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are indistinguishable from God, same majesty and same glory. Although the Son is from the Father and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, they are all of the same nature. Thus, in us too, each must recognize the other in his or her function - one might almost say - within the Most Holy Trinity. Such unity is characterized by freedom - freedom of the Father, freedom of the Son, freedom of the Holy Spirit - and by the deliberate preservation of differences. The Son does not want to be Father and the Father does not want to be Son or Spirit. Each one assumes his task in all freedom, without competition, without envy or jealousy. It must be the same among us. We too must recognize each other's differences and not envy or despise them for that. This is very important, because the opposite of unity is what most disturbs and even destroys church life. We must constantly experience this in the daily life of the Church.

In another passage, Jesus says: "I and the Father are one". (Jn 10:30) And although they are one and the same, the Son remains the one who waits, asks and obeys. He asks the Father, and the Father remains the one who sends, the one who gives, and the one who is in the field. In spite of this, they are one and the same and each recognizes the other and himself in all freedom. The love of both lives in this difference. It should be the same in the body of Christ, among his disciples and in the Church. This is the explicit wish of Jesus. That is why he destroys everything that is devoid of love: Envy, jealousy, competition, the body of Christ.

Jesus speaks of the diversity of all the members of the body - of the disciples and of us too - in their different natures, their different degrees of maturity, their different knowledge and their different dispositions. It is in this difference that love becomes truly effective. The gifts and strengths of one member support the needs of the other members, as Paul so wonderfully describes. Everyone needs everyone and no one can say to another, "I don't need you. It is like a building made of natural stones: In such a building, one of the stones is large, the other rather small, but neither replaces the other. We cannot put a large stone in the place of a small one, nor a small one in the place of a large one. Only when each stone is in its place is a beautiful building created. The same is true for the limbs of the body. If the stomach rebels against the heart, the whole body will perish. We must all serve one another, each with his or her own gifts and strengths, just as each divine person occupies his or her position in the Triune God: the one who commands as well as the one who obeys, and this in complete freedom. It is of this unity that Jesus speaks here.

In this unity, the body of Christ, the Church, and we too can build each other up, comfort each other and exhort each other, which is absolutely necessary if we too are to be in them, that is, in the Father and in the Son, like the branch in the vine. The branch that is not on the vine bears no fruit. It has no meaning and withers away. We will only be in the Father and in the Son if we live with each other in this unity. We do not have the strength of unity by ourselves, but by being in Jesus. It is only from this unity that our word acquires strength, so that others who hear it come to faith.

This is why I spoke at the beginning of a "pastoral concept" of love: The goal is the faith of the world in Christ, "so that the world may believe that you have sent me." All the evangelism, all the paperwork and all the business, all the organization, everything we do to evangelize again must first be based on this unity, as Jesus tells us here as almost the last word before his death. But where there is disunity and lack of love, the link with God is lacking and the word of men is powerless. It does not bring faith. All over the world, people preach, but does it make the faith grow in us? And if it does not, what is the reason? This is the question that each of us must ask ourselves and let ourselves be asked.

"And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me." (cf. verse 22-23)

Already at the transfiguration of Jesus on Tabor, the glory of which Jesus speaks here was manifested. Glory is an expression of holiness, of "being in God," thus a true "original word." This glory will be revealed when Christ is revealed at the end of time. Then we too will be manifested in glory, says Paul. This glory is actually about baptismal grace, specifically the divine virtues of baptismal glory: faith, hope and love. These divine virtues - as well as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit - are therefore not human, but something that has been poured into us that enables us to love as Jesus did. Ultimately, they produce this unity among us, for they are indeed gifts of the Spirit of unity, who does not scatter but gathers. It is the bond of love and peace, as Paul says. Through this spirit of unity, we ourselves become able to participate in the unity of the Father and the Son. "I have given them the glory" - this is what is given to us at baptism - "which you have given me", as we see at the Transfiguration on Tabor. So it is in the power of this glory, the power of the divine virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, that we must be one, as the Father and the Son are one.

Jesus was poured into us as the Father was poured into Jesus. It is through Christ that we come to unity with the Father. The world must therefore recognize that the Father loves us as much as he loves Jesus, for the divine virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit enable us to love even our enemies. This is how the world recognizes the Father's love. For today, it is not self-evident to love as my neighbor a person I do not know. Nowadays, to love my enemy is a requirement and almost borders on suicide. It is here that we notice what is actually only made possible in us by the glory of the Holy Spirit. This love of the Father for us is expressed in this love of enemies. That is where it is manifested. But the world cannot understand this. It can only wonder at it.

"Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world." (cf. verse 24)

In this passage too, Jesus is again the one who receives ("you have given me") and the Father the one who gives. But what does it mean that he, the obedient one, almost selfishly says: "I want". Jesus can say it like this because he knows he is one with the Father's will. The Father and the Son are so united that they really want the same thing, from the same freedom and the same knowledge.

All those who are entrusted to him must therefore see the glory of Jesus, what the Father has done for him and given him. The Father gives it to him because he loves him, and all must see this love. They must share in what the Father has given the Son from all eternity. They are then in a sense co-heirs - think of Paul - of Christ and should inherit the same glory that the Father has given to the Son in his love from the beginning. Jesus' desire is that they all share in his glory. There is no human fear of missing out and having to give up something or the like. His desire is that they all share in that infinite glory that he has received from his Father from all eternity, because the Father loves him. The gift is always based on the love of the Father.

"Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me." (cf. verse 25)

Those who have recognized Jesus as the one sent by God are the apostles, who are now gathered with him in the Upper Room. And whereas at the beginning of the prayer Jesus addressed God as "Holy Father," he now prays, "Just Father." Wherever the Father's love is mentioned, his justice must also be mentioned, for justice belongs to God as well as love, otherwise God would not be God.

But the world has not recognized this justice of God. We cannot stand before the justice of God because of our sin. No one can stand before the justice of God. That is why Jesus came in his love. That is why the Father sent him in his love. He must intervene so that we can truly surrender to God's mercy. Then we will be sanctified. If the world does not recognize God in his justice, it is because it is not really aware of its sin, it does not really know what it owes to God, what it cannot actually pay at all and what Jesus has finally done for the world, for us. Jesus stood up for him. He recognized the Father in his holiness and righteousness, and it is these that make redemption possible. No man can stand in his sin before the holiness of God. He would condemn himself. But Jesus recognized the Father both in his holiness - that is why he calls him "Holy Father" at the beginning - and in his justice - that is why he addresses him here as "Righteous Father".

This recognition of Jesus was not theoretical, but led to his incarnation. It was a realization that led him to assume the consequences: The consequence was that he alone could stand before the holiness and justice of God. His recognition was at the same time the love that was committed to reconciling us with the Father. His recognition led to the incarnation and redemption on the cross. And so the disciples in turn recognized Jesus' mission in the cross. For them, and for us as well, this means that the cross is not just theoretical knowledge, but that it makes them and us witnesses who put their lives on the line for the lost world.

That is why Jesus prays that we may come to faith and be able to live in union with the Triune God, so that our word may be fruitful and produce faith and that we may recognize very deeply what we owe to Jesus. Only then will we be able to endure the holiness and justice of God and encounter his mercy. The more deeply we recognize that Jesus' death, suffering and resurrection are the source of our redemption, the more we too become witnesses who, if necessary, bear witness themselves at the cost of their lives for the lost world.

"I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them." (cf. verse 26)

The disciples did not obtain the knowledge described above on their own, but Jesus made his name known to them, that is, his essence - the name always represents the essence - namely his righteousness and holiness. He made this known to them and this manifestation of God's essence has no end, so it continues to our time. God also reveals his nature to us.

Through the Spirit, Jesus makes us know more and more deeply the nature of God and, by this, the greatness of the salvation he has enabled us to attain. This knowledge leads to love: "that the love with which you loved me may be in them". This is how the Father's love flows through Jesus to the disciples and thus ultimately to us. This love is the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus lives in us. This is a reality so great and so wonderful that we find it difficult to finish contemplating it. It is not enough to read it, but we must really let it act on us, repeat it while contemplating it and ask the Spirit of God: "Reveal to me this wonderful truth".