Denver, Colo., Apr 1, 2010 (CNA) - In an exclusive video commentary, Terry Polakovic, Executive Director of Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women (ENDOW) emphasized the importance of incorporating silence into one's daily routine to maximize the experience of Holy Week.
“My advice on Holy Week is to try and put as much quiet as possible into your life,” Polakovic told CNA. “It’s hard to do that in the every day,” she added, “even if we have the best intentions in the world.” Nevertheless she recommended getting away “from crowds, telephone, email, text message, everything like that, just to try and put some silence into our hearts, into our minds, so that we can really focus on what this week is about and that we can really anticipate Christ’s rising from the dead.”
An ENDOW participant, Jean-Marie Willis, cautioned against losing sight of the real meaning of “these high holy days of the Catholic faith.” She said that during Holy Week, “a lot of people go into auto pilot and they just do what they need to get to Easter, to wear the pretty outfit, celebrate, have a nice meal, and maybe have those things that they abstained from during Lent.”
However, she noted, “There’s a real beauty and joy in knowing what’s going to happen, and know that the suffering that Jesus has gone through is going to be for the redemption of our souls.”
For women especially, Lent and Holy Week take on a unique aspect. Jane Eusterman, another ENDOW participant, drew upon what her group had been studying, especially in regard to the Apostolic Letter by John Paul II, “Salvifici Doloris.” “I think part of the feminine genius for women is to be able to have a feeling for the other person and to be able to walk alongside of them,” she noted. Eusterman emphasized offering up her own suffering to help share in Jesus Christ’s pain and his suffering, yet salvific, walk.
Joanie Todd, an ENDOW facilitator, spoke to CNA of her own Lenten and Holy Week experience, and concluded by recommending living Holy Week and Easter fully, “so we’re on track for the entire year, spiritually.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Superior General of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Alvaro Corcuera, earlier this week explained the reasons that prompted his congregation to issue their March 26 statement which publicly acknowledged the misdeeds committed by its founder, Father Marcial Maciel, for the first time.
“Once a year we have a meeting with all of the superiors of the congregation, called our territorial directors, and with the General Council as well,” Fr. Corcuera explained. “We have talked a lot about the very difficult situation with which we are faced, and we all agreed to issue a statement in which, naturally, we cannot express all of our sentiments.”
“But we do wish to offer, once again, our feelings of profound sorrow and regret to all the victims who have suffered from these acts,” Fr. Corcuera noted. “It is an act of forgiveness that has no other purpose than to open our hearts with humility to each and every one of those who have been harmed, and unfortunately scandalized, by the actions of our founder, Father Maciel.”
According to the Mexican daily, Milenio, Fr. Corcuera added that there was no particular significance to the date on which the statement was issued. The statement, which was released one week before Good Friday, “was not an act of opportunism,” emphasized Fr. Corcuera. “Rather, I simply did not want to wait any longer, because it was necessary and appropriate to take a blunter, clearer and firmer action.”
After noting that he had spoken with some of Fr. Maciel’s victims to ask them for forgiveness, Fr. Corcuera added, “As soon as I can go to Mexico, I definitely want to meet with the others, who I esteem and who, I am sure, need a word and gesture of closeness.”
Fr. Corcuera said his conscience is at peace. However, he also stated that he feels great sorrow and sadness for what has happened. “It is something I could have never imagined the day I was elected at the general chapter. If I had known everything that was to come, there would have been a funeral because I would have had a heart attack. However, I am proud of this family, and I am very happy with everything that I see,” he said.
Vatican City, Apr 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Wednesday, the Vatican's Press Office released the Holy Father's prayer intentions for the month of April. In his intentions, the Pontiff prays for the perseverance of Christians who are persecuted and that respect and tolerance will counter fundamentalism and extremism.
Pope Benedict's general prayer intention is: "That every tendency to fundamentalism and extremism may be countered by constant respect, by tolerance and by dialogue among all believers."
His mission intention is: "That Christians persecuted for the sake of the Gospel may persevere, sustained by the Holy Spirit, in faithfully witnessing to the love of God for the entire human race."
Vatican City, Apr 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the conclusion of Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI personally met with a group of survivors from the January 12 earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Survivor Maria Jolene and her three-year-old son greeted the Pope on behalf of a group of 11 mothers and 13 children. Jolene told L'Osservatore Romano, "We came to see the Pope to find hope for the reconstruction of Haiti." All of the survivors lost relatives, homes and jobs in the earthquake. They now call Italy “home.”
The group has been living in the small town of Civitella d'Agliano since the disaster. Among the members of the group, which is composed of mothers and children, is Lucienne, a mother of one. Lucienne witnessed the deaths of 50 children after the school where she worked collapsed.
Marco Giulotti, a representative from the Red Cross who accompanied the group, described the effort to shelter the Haitians as an "initiative of solidarity" in which "all of the 1,600 inhabitants of the town and the volunteers of the Red Cross" are protagonists.
"After Easter," he added, "the children will begin to go to school and for the mothers, we aim to find (them) jobs."
Following the audience, Pope Benedict also received 70 small bottles of spikenard ointment, the same ointment that was used by Mary Magdalene to wash the feet of Christ.
Vatican City, Apr 1, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI’s liturgical celebrations of Holy Week and Easter will be broadcast live on the internet.
Internet users will have access to live broadcasts from St. Peter’s Square, pictures and other on-line news reports. They can choose to listen to live audio commentaries in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
The broadcasts are a multimedia initiative of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, launched in May to bring Pope Benedict’s message to young people.
The broadcasts were brought about by Pope2You, http://www.pope2you.net, and H2oNews, http://www.h2onews.org, a Catholic multimedia news agency which is collaborating with the Vatican Television Centre and the Holy See’s internet service.
New York City, N.Y., Apr 1, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic League has accepted NBC’s apology for a section headline which said Pope Benedict XVI molested children.
On the website of MSNBC under the article, “Losing Their Religion? Catholicism in Turmoil,” the related content subsection linked to an article title reading, “Pope Describes Touching Boys: I Went Too Far.”
According to the Catholic League, this article said nothing about the Pope but discussed a homosexual German priest who had sexual relations with males in the 1980s.
On Tuesday Catholic League president Bill Donohue charged that the headline painted Pope Benedict as a child molester and called for an apology.
Later that day NBC apologized for the article.
In response, Donohue said:
“NBC says the attributed quote was erroneous and they have corrected the error. An apology was also extended. The apology is accepted. We hope that whoever was responsible for this outrageous post is questioned about it and that appropriate measures are taken. We look forward to hearing the outcome.”
Fargo, N.D., Apr 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Self-described Catholic groups who endorsed the health care bill despite objections “severely damaged” the common good and diluted the pro-life witness of the U.S. bishops and the Catholic faithful, asserted Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota in a Tuesday statement.
Bishop Aquila said it was “truly tragic” that some “so-called ‘Catholic’ groups” came out in support of the legislation.
“The Catholic Health Association (CHA), Catholics United and some small groups of religious orders have supported the Act,” the bishop explained. “In recent days, most sadly of all, these groups have received gratitude from pro-abortion forces.”
These groups, Bishop Aquila stressed, acted “in direct contradiction to the bishops” who are the “guardians” of authentic Christian teaching.
“The actions of these groups have betrayed the common good, undermined the teaching authority of the Church, and have disregarded the courageous witness by the Bishops and the many millions of faithful Catholics to the gift and dignity of human life,” he continued. “We now face the reality of severe damage to the common good by the expansion of abortion throughout our land because of the counter-witness of these groups.”
Additionally, the bishop said, these groups and some Catholic legislators and laity have “weakened the bonds of communion” within the Church and diluted “her witness to justice for all, from the moment of conception until natural death.”
He then reported that the groups’ influence was evident in North Dakota, whose U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy cited the encouragement of “Catholic nuns” to defend his vote for the legislation.
Bishop Aquila lamented that some Catholics are “more faithful to their political parties and ideological beliefs than to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church.”
“Rather than being a leaven in their respective party and in society for the good, by ignoring the primacy of the truths of our Catholic faith, they pave the way for secularism and a culture of death.”
Speaking about the effects of the health care reform bill itself, the bishop said although it seeks to expand access to health care especially for the poor and uninsured, at the same time it “allows for the violation of the sacredness of human life” by expanding federal funding for abortion.
“As Catholics, we cannot support something which helps some people while, at the same time, allows and funds, in part, the destruction of the most innocent among us, the unborn, and does not provide adequate conscience protection for those who are pro-life,” he added.
The executive order purporting to apply Hyde Amendment restrictions to the legislation “falls short,” in the bishop’s view, as its efforts to address shortcomings are “highly likely” to be legally invalid.
“The legal and policy advisors of the U.S. Catholic Bishops have noted the executive order cannot and does not fix the statutory problems of funding abortion, it cannot and does not make up for the absence of conscience protections that are missing from the statute, and it does not strengthen existing conscience protections,” he explained.
Bishop Aquila’s statement concluded by calling for Catholics to “remain steadfast” in witnessing to the human dignity of the unborn child and to the need for conscience protections for pro-life medical professionals and institutions.
Vatican City, Apr 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Presiding this morning in Rome at the Mass of Chrism, Pope Benedict XVI reminded that Christians, like Christ, do not “conquer” through the sword, but through the Cross.
The full text of his homily follows:
At the center of the Church’s worship is the notion of "sacrament". This means that it is not primarily we who act, but God comes first to meet us through his action, he looks upon us and he leads us to himself. Another striking feature is this: God touches us through material things, through gifts of creation that he takes up into his service, making them instruments of the encounter between us and himself. There are four elements in creation on which the world of sacraments is built: water, bread, wine and olive oil. Water, as the basic element and fundamental condition of all life, is the essential sign of the act in which, through baptism, we become Christians and are born to new life. While water is the vital element everywhere, and thus represents the shared access of all people to rebirth as Christians, the other three elements belong to the culture of the Mediterranean region. In other words, they point towards the concrete historical environment in which Christianity emerged. God acted in a clearly defined place on the earth, he truly made history with men. On the one hand, these three elements are gifts of creation, and on the other, they also indicate the locality of the history of God with us. They are a synthesis between creation and history: gifts of God that always connect us to those parts of the world where God chose to act with us in historical time, where he chose to become one of us.
Within these three elements there is a further gradation. Bread has to do with everyday life. It is the fundamental gift of life day by day. Wine has to do with feasting, with the fine things of creation, in which, at the same time, the joy of the redeemed finds particular expression. Olive oil has a wide range of meaning. It is nourishment, it is medicine, it gives beauty, it prepares us for battle and it gives strength. Kings and priests are anointed with oil, which is thus a sign of dignity and responsibility, and likewise of the strength that comes from God. Even the name that we bear as "Christians" contains the mystery of the oil. The word "Christians", in fact, by which Christ’s disciples were known in the earliest days of Gentile Christianity, is derived from the word "Christ" (Acts 11:20-21) – the Greek translation of the word "Messiah", which means "anointed one". To be a Christian is to come from Christ, to belong to Christ, to the anointed one of God, to whom God granted kingship and priesthood. It means belonging to him whom God himself anointed – not with material oil, but with the One whom the oil represents: with his Holy Spirit. Olive oil is thus in a very particular way a symbol of the total compenetration of the man Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
In the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, the holy oils are at the centre of the liturgical action. They are consecrated in the bishop’s cathedral for the whole year. They thus serve also as an expression of the Church’s unity, guaranteed by the episcopate, and they point to Christ, the true "shepherd and guardian" of our souls, as Saint Peter calls him (1 Pet 2:25). At the same time, they hold together the entire liturgical year, anchored in the mystery of Holy Thursday. Finally, they point to the Garden of Olives, the scene of Jesus’ inner acceptance of his Passion. Yet the Garden of Olives is also the place from which he ascended to the Father, and is therefore the place of redemption: God did not leave Jesus in death. Jesus lives for ever with the Father, and is therefore omnipresent, with us always. This double mystery of the Mount of Olives is also always "at work" within the Church’s sacramental oil. In four sacraments, oil is the sign of God’s goodness reaching out to touch us: in baptism, in confirmation as the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, in the different grades of the sacrament of holy orders and finally in the anointing of the sick, in which oil is offered to us, so to speak, as God’s medicine – as the medicine which now assures us of his goodness, offering us strength and consolation, yet at the same time points beyond the moment of the illness towards the definitive healing, the resurrection (cf. Jas 5:14). Thus oil, in its different forms, accompanies us throughout our lives: beginning with the catechumenate and baptism, and continuing right up to the moment when we prepare to meet God, our Judge and Saviour. Moreover, the Chrism Mass, in which the sacramental sign of oil is presented to us as part of the language of God’s creation, speaks in particular to us who are priests: it speaks of Christ, whom God anointed King and Priest – of him who makes us sharers in his priesthood, in his "anointing", through our own priestly ordination.
I should like, then, to attempt a brief interpretation of the mystery of this holy sign in its essential reference to the priestly vocation. In popular etymologies a connection was made, even in ancient times, between the Greek word "elaion" – oil – and the word "eleos" – mercy. In fact, in the various sacraments, consecrated oil is always a sign of God’s mercy. So the meaning of priestly anointing always includes the mission to bring God’s mercy to those we serve. In the lamp of our lives, the oil of mercy should never run dry. Let us always obtain it from the Lord in good time – in our encounter with his word, in our reception of the sacraments, in the time we spend with him in prayer.
As a consequence of the story of the dove bearing an olive branch to signal the end of the flood – and thus God’s new peace with the world of men – not only the dove but also the olive branch and oil itself have become symbols of peace. The Christians of antiquity loved to decorate the tombs of their dead with the crown of victory and the olive branch, symbol of peace. They knew that Christ conquered death and that their dead were resting in the peace of Christ. They knew that they themselves were awaited by Christ, that he had promised them the peace which the world cannot give. They remembered that the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples were: "Peace be with you!" (Jn 20:19). He himself, so to speak, bears the olive branch, he introduces his peace into the world. He announces God’s saving goodness. He is our peace. Christians should therefore be people of peace, people who recognize and live the mystery of the Cross as a mystery of reconciliation. Christ does not conquer through the sword, but through the Cross. He wins by conquering hatred. He wins through the force of his greater love. The Cross of Christ expresses his "no" to violence. And in this way, it is God’s victory sign, which announces Jesus’ new way. The one who suffered was stronger than the ones who exercised power. In his self-giving on the Cross, Christ conquered violence. As priests we are called, in fellowship with Jesus Christ, to be men of peace, we are called to oppose violence and to trust in the greater power of love.
A further aspect of the symbolism of oil is that it strengthens for battle. This does not contradict the theme of peace, but forms part of it. The battle of Christians consisted – and still consists – not in the use of violence, but in the fact that they were – and are – ready to suffer for the good, for God. It consists in the fact that Christians, as good citizens, keep the law and do what is just and good. It consists in the fact that they do not do whatever within the legal system in force is not just but unjust. The battle of the martyrs consists in their concrete "no" to injustice: by taking no part in idolatry, in Emperor worship, they refused to bow down before falsehood, before the adoration of human persons and their power. With their "no" to falsehood and all its consequences, they upheld the power of right and truth. Thus they served true peace. Today too it is important for Christians to follow what is right, which is the foundation of peace. Today too it is important for Christians not to accept a wrong that is enshrined in law – for example the killing of innocent unborn children. In this way we serve peace, in this way we find ourselves following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, of whom Saint Peter says: "When he was reviled he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Pet 2:23f.).
The Fathers of the Church were fascinated by a phrase from Psalm 45 (44) – traditionally held to be Solomon’s wedding psalm – which was reinterpreted by Christians as the psalm for the marriage of the new Solomon, Jesus Christ, to his Church. To the King, Christ, it is said: "Your love is for justice; your hatred for evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above other kings" (v. 8). What is this oil of gladness with which the true king, Christ, was anointed? The Fathers had no doubt in this regard: the oil of gladness is the Holy Spirit himself, who was poured out upon Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the gladness that comes from God. From Jesus this gladness sweeps over us in his Gospel, in the joyful message that God knows us, that he is good and that his goodness is the power above all powers; that we are wanted and loved by him. Gladness is the fruit of love. The oil of gladness, which was poured out over Christ and comes to us from him, is the Holy Spirit, the gift of Love who makes us glad to be alive. Since we know Christ, and since in him we know God, we know that it is good to be a human being. It is good to be alive, because we are loved, because truth itself is good.
In the early Church, the consecrated oil was considered a special sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who communicates himself to us as a gift from Christ. He is the oil of gladness. This gladness is different from entertainment and from the outward happiness that modern society seeks for itself. Entertainment, in its proper place, is certainly good and enjoyable. It is good to be able to laugh. But entertainment is not everything. It is only a small part of our lives, and when it tries to be the whole, it becomes a mask behind which despair lurks, or at least doubt over whether life is really good, or whether non-existence might perhaps be better than existence. The gladness that comes to us from Christ is different. It does indeed make us happy, but it can also perfectly well coexist with suffering. It gives us the capacity to suffer and, in suffering, to remain nevertheless profoundly glad. It gives us the capacity to share the suffering of others and thus by placing ourselves at one another’s disposal, to express tangibly the light and the goodness of God. I am always struck by the passage in the Acts of the Apostles which recounts that after the Apostles had been whipped by order of the Sanhedrin, they "rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus" (Acts 5:41). Anyone who loves is ready to suffer for the beloved and for the sake of his love, and in this way he experiences a deeper joy. The joy of the martyrs was stronger than the torments inflicted on them. This joy was ultimately victorious and opened the gates of history for Christ. As priests, we are – in Saint Paul’s words – "co-workers with you for your joy" (2 Cor 1:24). In the fruit of the olive-tree, in the consecrated oil, we are touched by the goodness of the Creator, the love of the Redeemer. Let us pray that his gladness may pervade us ever more deeply and that we may be capable of bringing it anew to a world in such urgent need of the joy that has its source in truth. Amen.
Vatican City, Apr 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Presiding this evening his second Mass of the day at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mass that commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Christians by reminding that, if we remain united with the Lord, the preaching of the Apostles will never fail throughout history.
The full text of his homily follows:
In his Gospel, Saint John, more fully than the other three evangelists, reports in his own distinctive way the farewell discourses of Jesus; they appear as his testament and a synthesis of the core of his message. They are introduced by the washing of feet, in which Jesus’ redemptive ministry on behalf of a humanity needing purification is summed up in a gesture of humility. Jesus’ words end as a prayer, his priestly prayer, whose background exegetes have traced to the ritual of the Jewish feast of atonement. The significance of that feast and its rituals – the world’s purification and reconciliation with God – is fulfilled in Jesus’ prayer, a prayer which anticipates his Passion and transforms it into a prayer. The priestly prayer thus makes uniquely evident the perpetual mystery of Holy Thursday: the new priesthood of Jesus Christ and its prolongation in the consecration of the Apostles, in the incorporation of the disciples into the Lord’s priesthood. From this inexhaustibly profound text, I would like to select three sayings of Jesus which can lead us more fully into the mystery of Holy Thursday.
First, there are the words: "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3). Everyone wants to have life. We long for a life which is authentic, complete, worthwhile, full of joy. This yearning for life coexists with a resistance to death, which nonetheless remains unescapable. When Jesus speaks about eternal life, he is referring to real and true life, a life worthy of being lived. He is not simply speaking about life after death. He is talking about authentic life, a life fully alive and thus not subject to death, yet one which can already, and indeed must, begin in this world. Only if we learn even now how to live authentically, if we learn how to live the life which death cannot take away, does the promise of eternity become meaningful. But how does this happen? What is this true and eternal life which death cannot touch? We have heard Jesus’ answer: this is eternal life, that they may know you – God – and the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ. Much to our surprise, we are told that life is knowledge. This means first of all that life is relationship. No one has life from himself and only for himself. We have it from others and in a relationship with others. If it is a relationship in truth and love, a giving and receiving, it gives fullness to life and makes it beautiful. But for that very reason, the destruction of that relationship by death can be especially painful, it can put life itself in question. Only a relationship with the One who is himself Life can preserve my life beyond the floodwaters of death, can bring me through them alive. Already in Greek philosophy we encounter the idea that man can find eternal life if he clings to what is indestructible – to truth, which is eternal. He needs, as it were, to be full of truth in order to bear within himself the stuff of eternity. But only if truth is a Person, can it lead me through the night of death. We cling to God – to Jesus Christ the Risen One. And thus we are led by the One who is himself Life. In this relationship we too live by passing through death, since we are not forsaken by the One who is himself Life.
But let us return to Jesus’s words – this is eternal life: that they know you and the One whom you have sent. Knowledge of God becomes eternal life. Clearly "knowledge" here means something more than mere factual knowledge, as, for example, when we know that a famous person has died or a discovery was made. Knowing, in the language of sacred Scripture, is an interior becoming one with the other. Knowing God, knowing Christ, always means loving him, becoming, in a sense, one with him by virtue of that knowledge and love. Our life becomes authentic and true life, and thus eternal life, when we know the One who is the source of all being and all life. And so Jesus’ words become a summons: let us become friends of Jesus, let us try to know him all the more! Let us live in dialogue with him! Let us learn from him how to live aright, let us be his witnesses! Then we become people who love and then we act aright. Then we are truly alive.
Twice in the course of the priestly prayer Jesus speaks of revealing God’s name. "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world" (v. 6). "I have made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (v. 26). The Lord is alluding here to the scene of the burning bush, when God, at Moses’ request, had revealed his name. Jesus thus means to say that he is bringing to fulfilment what began with the burning bush; that in him God, who had made himself known to Moses, now reveals himself fully. And that in doing so he brings about reconciliation; that the love with which God loves his Son in the mystery of the Trinity now draws men and women into this divine circle of love. But what, more precisely, does it mean to say that the revelation made from the burning bush is finally brought to completion, fully attains its purpose? The essence of what took place on Mount Horeb was not the mysterious word, the "name" which God had revealed to Moses, as a kind of mark of identification. To give one’s name means to enter into relationship with another. The revelation of the divine name, then, means that God, infinite and self-subsistent, enters into the network of human relationships; that he comes out of himself, so to speak, and becomes one of us, present among us and for us. Consequently, Israel saw in the name of God not merely a word steeped in mystery, but an affirmation that God is with us. According to sacred Scripture, the Temple is the dwelling-place of God’s name. God is not confined within any earthly space; he remains infinitely above and beyond the world. Yet in the Temple he is present for us as the One who can be called – as the One who wills to be with us. This desire of God to be with his people comes to completion in the incarnation of the Son. Here what began at the burning bush is truly brought to completion: God, as a Man, is able to be called by us and he is close to us. He is one of us, yet he remains the eternal and infinite God. His love comes forth, so to speak, from himself and enters into our midst. The mystery of the Eucharist, the presence of the Lord under the appearances of bread and wine, is the highest and most sublime way in which this new mode of God’s being-with-us takes shape. "Truly you are a God who is hidden, O God of Israel", the prophet Isaiah had prayed (45:15). This never ceases to be true. But we can also say: Truly you are a God who is close, you are a God-with-us. You have revealed your mystery to us, you have shown your face to us. You have revealed yourself and given yourself into our hands… At this hour joy and gratitude must fill us, because God has shown himself, because he, infinite and beyond the grasp of our reason, is the God who is close to us, who loves us, and whom we can know and love.
The best-known petition of the priestly prayer is the petition for the unity of the disciples, now and yet to come: "I do not ask only on behalf of these – the community of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room – but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (v. 20ff.; cf. vv. 11 and 13). What exactly is the Lord asking for? First, he prays for his disciples, present and future. He peers into the distance of future history. He sees the dangers there and he commends this community to the heart of the Father. He prays to the Father for the Church and for her unity. It has been said that in the Gospel of John the Church is not present. Yet here she appears in her essential features: as the community of disciples who through the apostolic preaching believe in Jesus Christ and thus become one. Jesus prays for the Church to be one and apostolic. This prayer, then, is properly speaking an act which founds the Church. The Lord prays to the Father for the Church. She is born of the prayer of Jesus and through the preaching of the Apostles, who make known God’s name and introduce men and women into the fellowship of love with God. Jesus thus prays that the preaching of the disciples will continue for all time, that it will gather together men and women who know God and the one he has sent, his Son Jesus Christ. He prays that men and women may be led to faith and, through faith, to love. He asks the Father that these believers "be in us" (v. 21); that they will live, in other words, in interior communion with God and Jesus Christ, and that this inward being in communion with God may give rise to visible unity. Twice the Lord says that this unity should make the world believe in the mission of Jesus. It must thus be a unity which can be seen – a unity which so transcends ordinary human possibilities as to become a sign before the world and to authenticate the mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ prayer gives us the assurance that the preaching of the Apostles will never fail throughout history; that it will always awaken faith and gather men and women into unity – into a unity which becomes a testimony to the mission of Jesus Christ. But this prayer also challenges us to a constant examination of conscience. At this hour the Lord is asking us: are you living, through faith, in fellowship with me and thus in fellowship with God? Or are you rather living for yourself, and thus apart from faith? And are you not thus guilty of the inconsistency which obscures my mission in the world and prevents men and women from encountering God’s love? It was part of the historical Passion of Jesus, and remains part of his ongoing Passion throughout history, that he saw, and even now continues to see, all that threatens and destroys unity. As we meditate on the Passion of the Lord, let us also feel Jesus’ pain at the way that we contradict his prayer, that we resist his love, that we oppose the unity which should bear witness before the world to his mission.
At this hour, when the Lord in the most holy Eucharist gives himself, his body and his blood, into our hands and into our hearts, let us be moved by his prayer. Let us enter into his prayer and thus beseech him: Lord, grant us faith in you, who are one with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Grant that we may live in your love and thus become one, as you are one with the Father, so that the world may believe. Amen.