Today’s passage is part of what is often called Jesus’s “priestly prayer” because he is picture as praying for his apostles, the first priests. While it is legitimate to see the prayer in this fashion, it is a narrow interpretation, much too narrow for John’s intent which was to reassure all those in the community for which he was writing and not only its leaders.
The apostles in this story represent the whole community, everyone who is embraced by the love of Jesus and therefore by the love of God. Jesus prays to the Father to take care of each one of his followers, to protect them from evil, to perfect them in goodness, to promote their growth in grace. The Irish blessing summarizes exactly the meaning of this prayer: “Until we meet again, may God hold you all in the palm of his hand.”
Fr. Greeley's Last Book:
Once upon a time a great coach was retiring. He and his teams had won many championships. He was very proud of them and they very proud of him. He knew that it was time for him to pull back from the daily grind of practices and the frequent strain and tension of the games. He was fraying around the edges and he knew it. So did the smarter players but they loved him so much that they would not admit this even to themselves. He did not want to leave the school or give up the sport, not yet anyway. So it was agreed that he would become athletic director and his best assistant would become the coach. He promised that he would never interfere in the daily running of the team. Since he was a man of his word, everyone knew that he was telling the truth. Yet there was terrible ambivalence in the team. On the one hand they were glad the coach was doing what was good for him. On the other hand they didn’t want to lose him, not even the man who was going to take over as head coach. The old coach would still be around, but in the background. It would never be like it used to be, like it had been for such a long time.
At his farewell dinner, the players, the coaches, the teachers, the parents were all deeply moved. They did not want to say goodbye, yet they knew the change would be good and that it was wise to say goodbye. In his farewell speech the coach commended his players to the new coach. Take good care of them, he said. I know you will and I promise not to interfere, but take good care of them because I love them all. This is now Jesus felt about us when he said goodbye to return to the father in heaven. More important, that is the way he still feels about us and he has a lot more power than an athletic director.
1 Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
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