Father, the hour has come….I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave me out of the world…. -John 17:1,6
As we leave John 17 and embark upon chapters 18 and 19, it is good to keep in mind the deep and personal love which Jesus had for those whom the Father gave Him. Even now, we who feel a similar love and recognize a similar responsibility for those whom the Father has given us, beginning with our own family and friends, can take heart and expect a lively personal assurance in hope, knowing that Jesus’ own love for those we love is very, very great.
We will see in John 18, while we join with Jesus in His agony, that His love for all who place themselves in His care is a love that goes all the way: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Throughout the past few months we have been seeing how Jesus proved His love and that of the Father while He walked the earth. It is all coming to a culmination now, as His Passion begins in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is all for us. It is all for those who believe or long to believe that God is real. It is a love that goes all the way.
Elisabeth Leseur in one of her letters (see Sources and Resources) spoke of this quality of love, into which we ourselves enter when we have taken the risk of saying yes to committed relationships, to loving all the way those whom the Father and Jesus have given us. And there is a practical, wise aspect to what she is describing, since as she says, “The suffering of those we love is apt to become a constant and unhappy obsession, against which we must struggle.”
Elisabeth says in respect to the afflictions of those we love, “It is comparatively easy not to be absorbed in our own suffering”; and in this respect she surely speaks as a woman, because that motherly heart which seems to be universal with women, whether they are actual mothers or not, is indeed self-effacing and sacrificial in the face of the pain our loved ones suffer. She goes on to say, “…we must struggle: first by prayer, confiding those we love to God in complete filial abandonment, then by work, and also by an occupation chosen outside the center of our thoughts and affections. Finally, by doing good to others, we can try to forget a little of our dear ones’ burdens, which are a thousand times more painful than the ones we carry alone.”
It is obvious that underlying Elisabeth’s advice and wisdom is her deep faith in the redemptive power of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ in her own life and the lives of those the Lord has given her to love. Only faith in God and the lively hope the Savior gave her enabled her to struggle through her own emotional storms, all the way to peace of mind and heart concerning the eternal welfare of her loved ones. Because our Saving Lord has already done what needed to be done, we need not be imprisoned by unhappy obsessions.
With this in mind, we can move into John 18 and 19 receptive to a transformative movement of God within us. Hopefully, a careful reading and rereading of these two chapters during September will also deepen our insights when we pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, or perhaps awaken in the middle of some night in anguish over a loved one’s problems or afflictions.
Finally, yesterday morning’s Psalm 39 expresses well the agony we are apt to feel during a time of worried desolation. It ends, “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not Your peace at my tears!….Look away from me, that I may know gladness, before I depart and be no more!” How unspeakably blessed we are now, since the coming of Jesus the Messiah, to be able to pray not, “Look away from me…” but rather, “Ostende faciem tuam!” (Psalm 80), “Let Your face shine upon us,” that we may know gladness even before we depart to be with you in heaven! -JC