Jesus’ prayer for unity (Jn 17:20-26)
Jesus’ prayer for unity was not only for his disciples who were with Jesus during his public ministry, but also for every future believer. Jesus’ prayer was that all the believers be united in Trinity as Jesus himself is one with the Father. Jesus makes this prayer after his farewell speech. During the speech, Jesus had revealed to his disciples a few important things that they need to keep in mind in his absence: (i) Jesus is the Way to the Father (ii) Believe in God and believe in Jesus (iii) Do not be worried (iv) Jesus is the one who reveals the Father, i.e., in Jesus you can see God (v) Jesus has always done the work of the Father (vii) Jesus dwells in the Father and the Father dwells in him (viii) Jesus promises a helper, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (ix) He will teach us everything (x) In order to bear fruit, receive the Spirit and remain united to Jesus the True Vine (xi) the world would hate the disciples as it had hated Jesus (xii) The time has come for Jesus to return to the Father. These points were elaborated to the disciples; and Jesus felt that his explanation was not enough. He knew that the devil can still play havoc in the spiritual lives of his disciples. So, Jesus prays for his disciples.
The significance of Jesus’ prayer is very much connected to the future mission of his disciples. All the aforementioned points help us to understand the importance of Jesus’ revelation to humanity through the chosen apostles. Jesus had told his disciples that they are going to be in the world without Jesus’ physical presence. Therefore, they need to be watchful. The world does not know the Father. They do not understand the teachings of Jesus. Only the chosen disciples are given the Revelation of God the Father. Jesus had protected his disciples while he was with them. His prayer was that they should be protected even after Jesus’ return to the Father. When Jesus returns, the disciples must continue Jesus’ mission with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and proclaim this eternal truth to the world.
Their mission is to proclaim the Risen Lord to the world. However, if they are not protected from the evil one, the disciples would be divided among themselves and proclamation would not take place. One of the most important characteristics of the disciples of Jesus should be unity. If there is no unity, the world would rejoice. From the time of the early Christian community till today, there have been efforts by the devil to create division among the Christians. St. Paul himself would talk to his community to be united in Christ. Church is the mystical body of Christ and we as members belong to him, the head of the Church. One member cannot disregard the other member and belittle the other. All the members are equally important for the smooth functioning of the body.
Jesus’ prayer for unity was very core to the mission that the future disciples were to undertake. He begs the Father to keep them united in the Trinity as he himself was in communion with the Father. There was an intimate filial relationship between Jesus and the Father. The Holy Spirit was with him throughout his public ministry. We do not see devil having power over Jesus at any time. All the temptations were overcome with the power of the Spirit. On the other hand, he had cast out the demons and healed many who were possessed by the demons. Jesus prays that such an intimate relationship should be there between his disciples and the Trinity. Jesus ardently desires that he should continue to be in the disciples and the disciples be in him and the Father be in Jesus that they may be completely one. He also prays that they too should be where Jesus is now, in the presence of the Trinity. Through the mission of the disciples, God will be glorified as Jesus had glorified the Father throughout his life. Unfortunately, Church has suffered many divisions which resulted in negative witnessing. Let us pray for true harmony and peace within the Church, especially, between various denominations. May the Spirit of God breathe “peace” and “unity” into the Church, the mystical body of Christ. Amen!