Winston Elliott III is Founder and Publisher of The Imaginative Conservative. Additionally, he is Visiting Professor of Liberal Arts and Conservative Thought at Houston Baptist University. He is a parishioner of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham, where he was received into the in Church in 2001. Mr. Elliott is a member of the Board of Directors of Wyoming Catholic College and served on the Board of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. He is married to the author Barbara J. Elliott and they have four children and ten grandchildren (so far).
And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth. (John 17:11-19)
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Amen.
Jesus prays: “Holy Father, keep them in your name… that they may be one, even as we are one…” Jesus, in His present form, is leaving the world but his disciples will remain in the world. In love he prays that his disciples will remain steadfast in the Father.
What does this entail? Clearly that they should remain true to the Father and the teachings of Jesus which draw us nearer to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He also prays that they “may be one, even as we are one.” Jesus prays for unity for the disciples and for his Church. A unity which is modeled upon the unity of the Father and the Son. A divine unity which is impossible without the grace of God. A unity which can only begin to be accomplished with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) at the center.
No unity is achievable, perhaps even desirable, without God as the unifying force which draws all creation together. A unity in diversity, yes, but with all eyes on the Creator. Jesus goes on: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name… I have guarded them… that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Jesus prepares to leave the world and says “these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” By staying true to the Father and the Son, true to Jesus’ teaching, true to the Word of God we may have the joy of Christ in us. An incredible, in many ways unfathomable, gift. Do we remember that Jesus desires for us to have his joy in us? This is worthy of remembrance and contemplation.
“I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” We have the word of God which brings great joy. But the world rejects his word and us. Why? What has led the world to reject God and His word? How have selfishness, pride, materialism and pain become prevalent when God desires us to have his joy fulfilled in us? Yes, God gave us the freedom to reject him but why do we do it?
Jesus warns us in this prayer that staying true to God will not be easy. “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world…” He doesn’t ask for us to leave the world but that we should be kept from “the evil one.” The resistance to God is not from our sinfulness alone. There is an active opposition to God. And the “evil one” leads it. In the face of evil why does Jesus want us here? It must be for a good reason. Otherwise wouldn’t he remove us from this world and remove us from the temptations of evil?
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Once again Jesus declares our mission. We are not here for ourselves. He wants us here so that we will, having been sanctified in truth, go out into the world! We are to take his truth to all the nations. We are to be his ambassadors. His truth is not for us to hoard and keep to ourselves. He directs us to go out into the world as the Father “sent me into the world.” We are to evangelize, to baptize, and to transform the world so that it reflects the love found the in the Blessed Trinity.
The question I puzzle over is why did I successfully ignore this grace for so long? So much grace, so little cooperation. My ability to turn to the wrong thing, to say no to grace is a constant rebuke and humiliation. Then our Mother, Mary, calls out to tell me that it's getting dark and it's time for me, for all of us, to come home.
Lord, we need your grace so that we may stay true to your name. Triune God, please immerse us in your love so that we may grow in likeness to you. Guide us and strengthen us. Help us remember what your apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you… for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” Holy Mary, Mother of us all, Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us! Amen.