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May 1966

"It is for these I pray ... for those whom you have entrusted to me." (John 17:9)

The complete sentence spoken by Jesus runs: "It is for these I pray; I am not praying for the world, but for those whom you have entrusted to me."

At that moment Jesus, addressing Himself to the Father, intended to pray for His disciples, for those who had welcomed Him and accepted His teaching, thus becoming followers of His, and of the Father. That is why He says: "I am not praying for the world.''

Some have interpreted the word "world" here In a negative and pejorative sense, as if it stood for all that is evil, all that is far from God and under the sway of the devil. But If we examine the phrase more closely we observe that there is really no desire whatever on the part of Jesus to condemn. We know, in fact, that He had come to save the world.

As the best exegetes agree, by "world" Jesus here meant the whole of mankind, which He certainly loved and meant to save. Yet at that particular moment, He wished to express His will to pray in a special manner for His friends, His disciples.

This is a delicate and important point. Here we see Christ, not as an abstract symbol of an individual confronted by the universal, the cosmic dimension of things. Jesus is certainly the Redeemer of the universe, but His human nature is complete and equipped with all the fine shades of feeling that a normal man possesses. This, we may surmise, is why just before His death, He turns to the Father and prays for His own, for those who had followed him in His apostolic travels, along the roads of Judea and Galilee, for those who had shared His weariness and thirst and had, with Him, been the object of the menacing and deceitful gestures of the Pharisees.

Between Jesus and His followers there existed a relationship not only of Redeemer to redeemed - in this case, the heads at the Church - but also one of father to sons, of a master to his disciples, of a friend to his own friends. This human perfection transpires through the divine words of the mysterious prayer of Jesus to the Father. This completeness of His human nature also helps us understand in what way we should live our Christianity.

Once we have understood the value of the apostolate, of being Christian witnesses in the world, we can better see that our Christianity must not be disincarnate, that our relations with others should never be arid and cold. Jesus demands from us a whole range and perfection of human feelings deriving their impulse from supernatural motives in us. In this way we may lead others, even those who are furthest away from the truth, to understand that Christ does not destroy man's nature, his humanity, does not set limits to it, but rather, elevates and completes it. This is why we owe those who are nearest to us a special affection and a special prayer.

No one should ever have to feel lonely in the Church. The Church is not a cold, cut-and-dried organization. It is the dwelling of the children of God. It is a family in which blood ties have been extended and raised on to a higher level by the Holy Spirit, who has come down upon us and made us brothers.

When we are actively members of the Church, we feel entirely at home there, and are on close terms with the Father, with Jesus and Mary, like the children of a household, who are clearly conscious that they have been generously enriched with new, profound bonds, both human and divine. How distant, then, is true Christianity from the cold, negative picture of it so often presented to us in the past by certain Jansenistic tendencies.

(Author unknown)

 

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