Year B 7th Sunday Easter: John 17,11-19

17:11   I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.

Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name,

so that they may be one like us.

17:12   While I was with them, I kept those you had given me true to your name.

I have watched over them and not one is lost except one who was destined to be lost,

and this was to fulfil the scriptures.

17:13   But now I am coming to you

and I say these things in the world to share my joy with them to the full.

17:14 I passed your word on to them, and the world hated them,

because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world.

17:15   I am not asking you to remove them from the world,

but to protect them from the Evil One.

17:16   They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.

17:17   Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth.

17:18   As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world,

17:19   and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth.


John divides his Gospel into two big sections. In the first section (chapters 01-12) we hear about the signs Jesus is doing. The second section is composed around what happened during Jesus’ Passover (chapters 13-21): his speech at the Last Supper, his passion, death and resurrection. Today’s Gospel is a fragment of Jesus’ speech at the Last Supper.

This speech is also to be divided into two parts. In the first part Jesus speaks to his disciples (chapters 13-16). In the second part he says a prayer to his Father (chapter 17). Today’s Gospel is part of his prayer to the Father. Jesus is praying to his Father in attendance of his disciples. A moment of extreme intimacy. This prayer is to be divided in three parts:

1. 17:01-08: Jesus prays for himself (‘Father, glorify...’);

2. 17:09-19: Jesus prays for his disciples (‘Father, I ask...’);

3. 17:20-26: Jesus prays for all the faithful (‘Father, I ask...’).

Our reading is taken from the second part where Jesus is praying for his disciples.


The first line already contains a stunning word: ‘Holy Father, keep those you have given me...’  He considers his disciples as a gift from the Father, a gift from heaven. And it isn’t a mistake, for Jesus says so five times in the prayer of the 17th chapter (vss. Can I say about myself that I am a disciple of Jesus? And if so, can I believe that he considers me a gift from heaven?

One like us

The togetherness of Jesus’ disciples is meant to be a reflection of God’s togetherness, the Trinity. It is a great gift and a great vocation. This is the vision John has in mind. With  Jesus, a link was given between God and the people. Pure grace. Heaven has opened itself to the people and since then the people breathe the same atmosphere as the ones in heaven do. The cloud in which God dwells envelops the earth as well. The complete existence, the entire cosmos is wrapped in the air God breathes in and out. In the foregoing chapters Jesus did not speak about ‘air’ or ‘atmosphere’, but about ‘love’. ‘I loved you as the Father loved me; love one another: that will be heaven on earth. ‘What heaven really makes ‘heaven’ is love. What heaven really makes heaven has descended amongst you. Heaven and earth are not separated any longer: they are one big togetherness. The binding element is love.

To fulfil the Scriptures.

I don’t think that Judas was a puppet on a string of a cruel God. The first Christian generation tried to give meaning to what had happened. Judas had betrayed Jesus. That was a fact. He may have had his reasons. Looking for a meaning they sought it in the Holy Scriptures of course. There they found texts which spoke about betrayal (for example Psalm 41). These texts reveal a mystery to us. Whoever desires to do Messianic work..., whoever wants to be a person of love and forgiveness, will be confronted with opposition. Why. Because not everyone can share the choice of absolute love (who can?). People have their (good?) reasons. Mostly we don’t know these reasons. God knows them. He will know how He can change them (and me!) into people of absolute love.

Picture Meditation

This sculpture is to be found in the Netherlands, Biddinghuizen, Walibi Parc. It is made by Corrie Ammerlaan-van Niekerk, ca 2000.

Out of an enormous circle a group of people rises up, shoulder to shoulder. The human people are still rudimentary figures. It is not about beauty or identity. It is about togetherness, rooted in the same centre, culminating in the gesture of victory by the two in the middle. It is about solidarity and unity.

Precious metals have to be refined, and treated with lye until all inequalities are removed. Isn’t it as if these figures rise up out of this process as new triumphant people. Isn’t it an illustration of Jesus’ words, ‘Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name,

so that they may be one like us. I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the Evil One’?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ