.- Jesusâ âpriestly prayerâ at the Last Supper for Christian unity should inspire Catholics to pray and work for it, Pope Benedict XVI said on Jan. 25.
âHis priestly prayer can thus be seen as instituting the Church, the community of the disciples who, through faith in him, are made one and share in his saving mission,â the Pope said at his weekly general audience.
He also urged Catholics to pray âfor the gift of the visible unity of all Christâs followers, so that the world may believe in the Son and in the Father who sent him.â
The Pope addressed his remarks to thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Vaticanâs Paul VI Hall on todayâs Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the day that brings the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to a close.
The âpriestly prayerâ of Christ is recalled most vividly in Chapter 17 of the Gospel of St. John. In order to understand âits immense richness,â said Pope Benedict, it must be seen âagainst the backdrop of the Jewish feast of expiation, Yom Kippur.â
During Yom Kippur, he explained, the Jewish High Priest sought âatonement first for himself, then for the order of priests and finally for the community as a whole.â
In an identical fashion, âJesus, as priest and victim, prays that the Father will glorify him in this, the hour of his sacrifice of reconciliation.â Jesus also âasks the Father to consecrate his disciples, setting them apart and sending them forth to continue his mission in the world.â
The Pope then broke down the prayer into its three main parts.
Benedict XVI first touched on Jesusâ prayer that he would be glorified, when he said âFather, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you.â
The Pope pointed out that this prayer is âmore than a request.â It is âa declaration of willingness to enter freely and generously into the Father's plan, which is accomplished through death and resurrection.â
As the new High Priest, the glory Jesus seeks for himself âis to be fully obedient to the Father, an obedience which leads Him to fulfill His filial status.â
The second prayer Jesus prays to his Father is for his disciples, who âdo not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth.â
âTo sanctify means to transfer something â a person or thing â to God,â explained Pope Benedict. This involves two complementary aspects of âsegregationâ or being âset apartâ from the world, and then âbeing sent outâ to evangelize the world.
For the disciples of Christ, this meant continuing âJesusâ mission,â he said.
Finally, Jesus prays for future generations of Christians, âI ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.â In this âJesus prays for the Church in all times, he also prays for us,â said the Pope.
âThe main element in Jesusâ priestly prayer for his disciples,â he taught, âis his request for the future unity of those who will believe in him.â
Christian unity is ânot a worldly achievementâ and âderives exclusively from divine unity and comes down to us from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit,â the Pope said.
Today was the latest installment in the Popeâs weekly catechesis on prayer. He concluded todayâs gathering by leading those present in singing the Our Father in Latin, before imparting his apostolic blessing.