“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” (Jo. 17:26).
Our Gospel today hinges on three words in parallel: glory, knowledge, and love. The Easter season is the church’s annual opportunity to reflect more deeply on the meaning of the resurrection; to consider again the meaning of Jesus’ invitation to new life. This portion of Jesus’ prayer of consecration, from the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John, draws the disciples into the matrix of relationship between the Father and the Son. What Jesus has been given by his Father, he shares with his disciples, those whom he calls “friends.” His consecration of himself, in the seventeenth chapter, becomes their own consecration, as he prepares them for the gift of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost.
The first word is “glory.” “The glory that you have given me I have given them…” (Jo. 17:22), Jesus says in our Gospel today. Glory is a word associated with God’s presence, as when God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai, or at the tent of meeting as Israel journeyed in the wilderness. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). Much later, when the prophet Ezekiel was in exile, the glory of the Lord appeared to him in a vision. “Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all round. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezek. 1:28). Glory is revealed through the People’s encounter with God.
That same glory is revealed in Jesus Christ, but in a wholly different key. When Jesus gives voice to his prayer of consecration, he’s in the shadow of the cross. Glory is revealed, not only in the splendor of the light of resurrection, but in the splendor of the cross. When Jesus prays, “The glory that you have given me I have given them…” (Jo. 17:22), he’s sharing the way of the cross. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains but a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jo. 12:24). Christians are that fruit. Jesus invites us to conform ourselves to his own pattern.
The second word is “knowledge.” “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known…” (Jo. 17:26), as we heard in our Gospel. Jesus “knows” the Father, and the Father “knows” him, as Jesus says in the tenth chapter of John (Jo. 10:15). Now, he’s sharing this “knowledge” with the disciples. As Jesus says at the beginning of his prayer of consecration, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jo. 17:3).
This way of knowing God does not create secret information, that only Christians are privy to, but it in-forms us as we go deeper in relationship with God. It does not supersede faith but brings us closer into the relationship of love that already exists between the Father and the Son. In John’s Gospel, Jesus never says that he has faith in God, simply that he “knows” God. In knowing the other, a community of heart and mind is created.
Christians are called to have faith, but also invited to go deeper in their knowledge of God, in the way in which Jesus himself knows the Father. This is not head knowledge, but heart knowledge. Going deeper comes through prayer and penitence, communion and service: the faithful life that Jesus himself exemplifies. These practices are a part of the deeper reflection that the Easter Season is all about.
Finally, we come to the third of our words in parallel: love. As Jesus says in our reading, “…so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (Jo. 17:26). “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (Jo. 17:23). Knowledge leads to love; and love is that transforming power that brings us together, to share the love that is itself the relationship between the Father and the Son. In the light of the events this week, the world’s desperate need for this transforming love ought to be clear to all of us.
Speculative theologians have even posited that this love that we are so in need of is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit sent by the Father, the One who dwells within us. That love, which is God, will not only transform us but send us out in mission and ministry. Today, Jesus consecrates himself, and prays for us, that we may shine with God’s glory, and be filled with the knowledge and love of God that passes all understanding.