John 17:1-11 Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
"I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. “
Reflection Hears, believes, has… this is all present tense. According to John’s gospel eternal life is not about delayed gratification. It is not about post mortem reward. Right here, right now, hearing the Word of God, believing the Word of God, and acting in accord with the Word of God, we have already “passed from death to life.” This new life is eternal life.
The way it has generally been understood we might envision eternal life as an enormous circle (which of course it is not because it could not possibly have edges). In any case, at some location far below the circle of eternal life is the tiniest of circles. That would be me. Or you. In our relationship to the enormous circle our understanding of eternal life is as something far above and beyond us, and, given my track record, probably inaccessible to me.
Imagine again the enormous circle of eternal life but this time put our tiny circles inside the circle of eternal life. Our relationship with eternal life is utterly transformed. We are not outside eternal life, bouncing up and down trying to break in. We are always and everywhere intimately part of eternal life. Any sense of separation we may experience is because we are not hearing the Word of God, believing the Word of God or acting in accord with the Word of God.
When we hear, believe and choose to act in accord with the Word of God we realize that the work of our life is to disentangle ourselves from any concerns that block the flow of Divine Presence. Actions driven to accumulate power, comfort, wealth or any other selfish motive create a false sense of separation between us and God and one another (our little distinguishing circle). But, we can choose to “sell everything,” which is to say, we can choose to surrender our natural inclination toward selfishness. When we “sell everything” that interferes with the flow of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity and self-control, the insubstantial membrane that seems to separate us from one another dissolves and we experience our lives as the unified whole that they are. This is the answer to Jesus’ prayer.
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through (the disciples’) word, that they may all be one… as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one…” (John 17.20,23)
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Image by Alex Grey