Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - Maundy Thursday - 28 March 2013
When Jesus finished saying these things, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son can glorify you. You gave him authority over everyone so that he could give [aiōnion] life to everyone you gave him. This is [aiōnios] life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent. I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I shared with you before the world was created.
“I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from this 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 comes from you. This is because I gave them the words that you gave me, and they received them. They truly understood that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.
“I’m praying for them. I’m not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours. Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them. I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I’m coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one. When I was with them, I watched over them in your name, the name you gave to me, and I kept them safe. None of them were lost, except the one who was destined for destruction, so that scripture would be fulfilled. Now I’m coming to you and I say these things while I’m in the world so that they can share completely in my joy. I gave your word to them and the world hated them, because they don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. I’m not asking that you take them out of this world but that you keep them safe from the evil one. They don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth.
“I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.
“Father, I want those you gave me to be with me where I am. Then they can see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“Righteous Father, even the world didn’t know you, but I’ve known you, and these believers know that you sent me. I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.”
Maundy Thursday. The Gospel reading for tonight will undoubtedly be about Jesus washing the disciples feet (either John 13:1-15, or Luke 22:14-30). Which is strange because the word maundy is based on the Latin word mandatum and means “commandment.” The washing of the disciple’s feet was an example, Jesus said, not a commandment. The word mandatum comes from the Latin translation of the Bible and is taken from Jesus’ words in John 13.34, “I give you a new commandment (mandatum): Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” The commandment, the mandatum, isn’t “wash each other’s feet.” The commandment is, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” That’s the mandatum, the commandment - to love others as Christ loves.
So, what does any of that have to do with today’s Gospel lesson? Quite a lot, actually. This passage is often referred to as the “High Priestly Prayer.” It could just as easily be called the “Prayer for Love and Unity” (and, perhaps, those two are the same thing). Over and over again, Christ longs for the Father-Mother’s love to be with his followers - in his followers - just as it has been with and in Jesus himself.
And then, the most astounding part of all. Jesus prays that his followers would be one, just like Jesus is one with the Father-Mother. But he doesn’t stop there. He extends that unity beyond our comprehension. He longs for a unity of the Creator and creation. G_d the Father-Mother is in Christ and Christ is in the Father-Mother. They’re One in a deep mystery. At the same time, Jesus asks to be in his followers and they in him. Now, if G_d is within Jesus, that is, if G_d is so unified with Jesus that they are the same being, and Christ is praying for the same thing for his followers - then he is praying that we will be one with G_d the way he is one with G_d.
In Eastern Orthodox theology this is called theosis. That is, the transforming process of attaining likeness or union with G_d. Humanity is not only to experience biological life but aiōnion Life, the Life of the ages, the Life of G_d. St. Peter wrote, “Through [Jesus’] honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that [we] may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces.”
This is similar to sanctification in Western theology. One of the big differences between the two, however, is sanctification is about becoming holy; whereas theosis is about becoming “god.” St. Athanasius said, “The Son of God became man, that we might become god” (note the small “g”). This doesn’t mean that people become G_d in an ontological sense - the creature can’t become the Creator - but we can “share the divine nature.” St. Paul put it this way, “We are being transformed into that same image,” i.e., the image of Christ. Note that, for Paul, this is a present and ongoing transformation. We don’t get it all at once. Certainly, there is a beginning, but the transformation process takes the entire life (at least).
Furthermore, as we noted yesterday, I don’t believe this is limited to just humanity. I believe theosis is for all creation. Again, St. Paul wrote:
The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice - it was the choice of the one who subjected it - but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now.
Jesus prayer is that one day all creation will become one. That is, the two halves of G_d’s “supremely good” creation - our world’s realm and G_d’s Realm - would once more be reunited into one whole. St. John paints that very picture:
I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters.
That’s where creation is heading. And it’s in direct answer to Jesus’ prayer and his faithful action of going to the cross. The Love and Unity of G_d for the whole creation.
And what’s really beautiful is that there are sages and scientists and prophets and wisdom teachers and ordinary people all over the world saying the same thing - we are all one. And, personally, I believe this is happening because of the cross and resurrection. Each and every moment of every day, each time we put ourselves aside and serve others, we are one step closer to making that future, that dream of G_d, that prayer of Jesus, a reality.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC