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November 1966

"For their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth" (John 17:19)

It is necessary to catch exactly all the nuances and the deep significance of Jesus' testament, if we wish to bring this divine spiritual message to the world. This is all the more important since our words today have acquired a different meaning from in the past, and instead of giving us the true sense of Jesus' words they alter it, they change it, for sometimes words no longer exist in the contemporary vocabulary which express the thought of the ancient writers to us exactly.

This is clear from an examination of this verse from St. John, chapter 17; the translation reads: "For their sake I consecrate myself"; by these words we are made to understand an effort and a desire of Jesus to be always holy in actions and words. This is in fact what we would do in order to sanctify, to consecrate, ourselves: a continuous and not always realized effort to conform ourselves to a model.

This is not what Jesus wanted to say to us at the last supper, not only because Jesus, being the Son of God, was already holy in all that He did and said, but because at that time the word "to consecrate" was understood to mean "to put aside for God", just as it is written in Exodus, chapter 13, 2: "Consecrate all the first-born to me, the first issue of every womb, among the sons of Israel. Whether man or beast this is mine".

It is in this sense that Jesus speaks. He "consecrates" Himself to God, thinking of the sacrifice of the cross that He is going to fulfil. He offers Himself as the first-born of men, the Son of Man, to be, through suffering and death, the victim that mankind offers in expiation to the Father.

This will be the true root of the consecration of the disciples. A holiness which, before being a holiness of acts and thoughts, will be deep within them, ontological as the very holiness of Jesus. So that the last words of the verse will then be understood: "so that they too may be consecrated in truth".

Here also the modern translation has altered Jesus' thought.

Jesus wants to tell us that His disciples will be truly and effectively "consecrated" in truth, and not so much by truth; and He has before His eyes the sacrifices of the Old Law, acceptable to God but external, valid only because they prefigure the sacrifice of the unique victim: Jesus, who would offer himself. Such sacrifices "consecrated" but not "in truth".. as does Jesus' sacrifice. They consecrated only externally and as a pre-figuration of Christ's sacrifice. His sacrifice, instead, renews man, making him become a "new man".

Even if Christ's example in sacrificing Himself in the world to bring life is unique and inimitable, nonetheless His words show us how we can sanctify, "consecrate" ourselves and others. It is through the cross, through our consecration as the first fruits of humanity to the Father, in order to-be transformed by Christ's passion into living members of His body, who allow the lymph of the divine grace, which penetrates us from Christ's cross, to circulate, and through suffering accepted and offered up, to expend itself, transforming itself in charity towards those who are near us.

(Author unknown)

 

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