A Reflection from Fr Paul on Easter 7
A Reflection for Easter 7
Christians are called to live into eternity right here and NOW! Contrary to popular misconceptions, we do not believe only in a belief that heaven means “pie in the sky when you die” but if we were being totally honest, we might even say that we can find heavenly pie in life’s ply and try!
The prayer of Jesus in today’s gospel is clear to me that our lives here and now are to be shaped and directed by the gift of that we call eternal life. And that means our deep union with God. What a powerful and challenging thought that is; what an exciting way to live our lives.
Jesus prays for a deep union with God his Father and that is an obvious part of what we understand by the incarnation, God with us! But Jesus goes beyond this when he claims that the glory of his relationship with his Father was real even ‘before the world existed’ as John’s gospel has it (17.5). The Word was in the beginning with God, as the prologue of John’s gospel says. We can say that about Jesus, but, saying it of ourselves is much more complicated. We frequently say we are only human, and with our human character go all kinds of disqualifications for union with God. Sin, selfishness, conceit, hatred, laziness—Need I go on? And yet we were created for eternal life!
‘And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (John 17.3 NRSV). This intimacy of knowing is about a quality of living that takes in the whole of a person—body, mind, and soul. Jesus prays that the discipleship we undertake will lead to the same kind of real and deep union he himself knows with his Father. Wow! To enjoy that kind of living right now is quite a claim.
Many years ago, while at still at High School, I used to be friendly with the gardener/grounds man. I watched him frequently, fascinated by how he marked out the football pitch with a clever machine that put the white lines on the grass. He used to drum into me continually the need to keep my eyes looking towards the front, and not look back. However, when I tried it solo, I could not resist turning back and looking to see how straight my lines were, the minute I took my eyes off the way ahead, I was in a mess. Crooked lines that he described as being like a dog peeing in the snow! The same principle is essential in discipleship: we must keep our eyes, our intention, and our will, fixed on eternal life. But how?
I think there’s help in the very thing Jesus is doing in this gospel passage. Jesus prays for his disciples and friends, for himself, and for all Christians of every time and place. He prays for us. Chapter seventeen of John is by far the longest prayer on Jesus’ lips we have. It makes plain again that for Jesus prayer was an essential component of being alive. This is no add-on to what he does and says. It is part of the very breath of his life—a necessity of living.
Somewhere Mahatma Gandhi wrote, ‘I discovered that after a time of prayer, I was able to do a far greater amount of work. A doctor has testified as a medical fact that my blood pressure was lowered by it, my nerves calmer, my mind rested and alert, my whole body in better health. I was refreshed and ready for work, and if previously I had been in a mood of pessimism and despair, after I prayed, I was charged with new hope and confidence.’
If that is the witness of only an admirer of Christ who did not share our faith, how much more seriously should we take it in the light of so many Christian witnesses who say the same thing. Eternal life now means sharing the prayer of Christ now—regularly, earnestly, and unhurriedly. It must be as breathing to us, as it was for Jesus.
This is how we keep our eyes and wills fixed on eternal life—by our praying. This is how we encourage each other in running the race of discipleship; this is how we prepare ourselves to recognize eternal truths in the commonplace of ordinary lives; this is how we are reminded again and again of the ways we can keep close to Christ and let his intentions direct our living.
P.T. Forsyth once told a congregation, ‘When you reflect after worship, “What have I done today?” say to yourself, “I have yielded myself to take part with the Church in Christ’s finished act of redemption, which is greater than the making of the world.” That is the awesome significance both of our worship and our prayer. This is glory: this is eternity lived NOW.