John 17, 1-11a
CONTEXT: JESUS’ PRAYER IN LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
The passage begins Jesus’ “high priestly” prayer addressed to the Father, ending his Farewell Discourse (cc 13-17). It is suggested the evangelist is influenced by the Letter to the Hebrews which understands the crucified Jesus as high priest and the seamless garment of Jesus at his crucifixion (Joh 19, 23f) is akin to the robe of the high priest (cf Exo 28, 32). This long prayer of Jesus highlights his concerns focused on:
- his relationship with the Father [vv 1-8],
- his disciples after he leaves them [vv 9-19], and
- future believers [vv 20-26].
Using social sciences Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Jerome Neyrey, and John Pilch give us insights into different types of prayer recorded in the passage other than prayers of petition. On this World Communications Sunday we can see prayer as a communicative and symbolic act directed to a person who has control over the life circumstances of the one praying. The prayer is carried out with the social meaning of affecting the one prayed to in attaining some desired results, as rooted in the cultural life of the group.
PRAYER OF JESUS IN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FATHER (vv 1-5)
Jesus prays to have an effect on God.–He petitions the Father to glorify him the Son — in God’s presence before creation (v 5) — that the Son might glorify him in turn (v 2).
Jesus prays in interaction with the Father.–Part of this type of prayer is self-focused to celebrate the current status of Jesus as the one sent and the role he plays to glorify God on earth in fulfilling God’s mission with faithful constancy (v 4). The information contained in this type of prayer acknowledges and honours the sovereign power and majesty of God while according him praise and reverence. In his prayer Jesus informs us that eternal life is to acknowledge and confess the one true God the Patron and Jesus the Christ sent by him as the Broker (v 3).
PRAYER OF JESUS FOR HIS DISCIPLES (vv 6-11a)
Jesus prays to have an effect on God.–Jesus petitions the Father on behalf of his disciples and not of the world (v 9). He intends that God safeguards their unity in his name — the divine name I AM — given to Jesus — whose past existence is eternally present and whose future remains immortal (v 11). Through God’s everlasting love and faithful power the disciples are protected and kept united.
Jesus prays in interaction with the Father.–As the faithful apostle sent by the Father Jesus accomplishes God’s mission as indicated in the self-focused parts of his prayer, identifying himself and his disciples with the Father as follows:
- he manifests the God’s divine name to the disciples drawn from the world by the Father and handed over to Jesus (vv 6. 9),
- he affirms the disciples’ faith in keeping Jesus’ words revealed by the Father and in knowing Jesus’ origin and mission (vv 6-8), and
- he glorifies in everything given by and shared with the Father (v 10).
Bruce J Malina and Richard L Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels 2nd edition. Fortress Press 2003.
Jerome H Neyrey ed, The Gospel of John. Cambridge University Press 2007.
John J Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle A. The Liturgical Press 1995.
In catechesing adults, adolescents, and children the themes derived from the gospel passage could be developed.
One central theme is Christian prayer.
Joh 17 > CCC 2604, 2746, 2758
The priestly prayer — the prayer of the Hour — of Jesus
On the arrival of his hour of glory, Jesus’ priestly prayer takes up the whole economy of creation and salvation, his death and Resurrection, thereby fulfilling the petitions of the Our Father.
Joh 17, 22.214.171.124.9.10.11 > CCC 2750
Jesus’ prayer of the hour fulfils petitions of the Our Father
Jesus’ priestly prayer fulfils from within the petition of concern for the Father’s name (vv 6, 11), zeal for God’s reign and glory (vv 1, 5, 10), and doing God’s will while fulfilling his plan of salvation (vv 2, 4, 6, 9, 11).
Joh 17, 3. 6-10 > CCC 2751
Jesus’ prayer reveals the unity of Father and Son
The priestly prayer enables us to know the Father and Son as one, the very mystery of the life of prayer.
Joh 17, 6.8 > CCC 2812
Jesus reveals the name of God
The name of God is revealed by Jesus and given as Saviour. It is also revealed by who Jesus is, in his word and his sacrifice. In sanctifying his own name Jesus reveals to us the Father’s name.
Joh 17, 7 > CCC 2765
Jesus our teacher and model of our prayer to the Father
The prayer to God the Father is taught and given to us by the Lord Jesus, as uniquely the prayer of the Lord. He is the master of our prayer the words of which are given him by the Father. He is our model of prayer, coming to us as the Word incarnate and knowing the needs of our heart.
Joh 17, 11 > CCC 2747
High priestly prayer inseparable from Jesus’ Passover
Jesus’ high priestly prayer is inseparable from his sacrifice, his passing over to the Father in whom he is totally consecrated.
Joh 17, 11 > CCC 2749
High priestly prayer of Jesus extends to end of time
Jesus’ prayer of the hour extends to the end of time. In his total oblation to the Father Jesus expresses himself in complete freedom endowed by the Father’s power given him over all that is created.
Joh 17, 11 > CCC 2815, 2849
Prayer for Father’s protection in his name
Jesus prays for his disciples that the Father protects them in the latter’s name and keeps them vigilant in time of temptation.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Burns & Oates 2006.