PantokratorActs 20:16-18, 28-36; John 17:1-13

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Our Gospel reading today comes from a larger section of St. John’s Gospel that we can refer to as the High Priestly Prayer of Christ. The Father’s teach us that man was created to be the prophet, priest, and king in the world – so here is the perfect Godman praying as the High Priest of all creation. It’s easy to see how this prayer parallels priestly prayer – the prayer is an offering of the work which Christ has done, and of the men whom he has gathered and taught and offered to the Father. It is a prayer of offering, and of thanksgiving. The theme, so to speak, of the prayer is the preservation of the Apostles. As the prayer says, our Lord manifested the name of God to the Apostles; He witnessed to God and to His own Messiahship and Godhead; He taught them, and they believed His words and followed His ministry. Now the time has come for Jesus to leave the world, so He prays that His followers be preserved in their faith, since by believing in Him they have truly become children of the Father. He prays again that His followers be preserved, and that they might be one, even as Christ and the Father are one. This prayer continues beyond our Gospel reading, with Christ continuing to ask that the Apostles be kept from evil and be kept separated from the world. He also prays several more times that they be one, united with one another in love, just as the Holy Trinity is united as one in love. Our Lord knew that the job the Apostles would be called to do after His death, resurrection, and ascension, would be a very difficult and trying task. They would be taking the Gospel, the Good News, the full Truth about both God and man, and they would be preaching this Gospel to an unbelieving people. They would be persecuted, hated, despised, tortured, and even killed in the proclamation of the Word of the Lord. So Jesus prays fervently for them, that they be one, strong in faith and love, sanctified, and preserved.

As I read the Gospel, and the Epistle, I was reminded of the parable of the Pearl of Great Price. The Apostles had abandoned all for that Pearl which was valuable beyond all reckoning – they abandoned all for the sake of following Christ. So our Lord prays that they be given grace and strength to keep that path of seeking the One Thing Needful. Our Lord prays in the Gospel, and St. Paul offers a warning in the Epistle. There’s the beautiful image St Paul uses of the leaders shepherding the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood. He then warns these leaders of the Church of Ephesus that after he left, savage wolves would come from the outside and attack the flock. He also warns that people will rise up from within the flock, and speak perverse things, false teachings, trying to draw people away from the Church and gather disciples themselves. Our Lord prayed for the preservation of His followers, and St. Paul warns them about some of the dangers which might be coming their way. The flock is attacked both from the outside, and from false teachers that rise up within the Church. Today we remember the Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council, a council which was called to deal with people inside the Church who were spreading false teachings about Christ and trying to draw disciples away from the Church and to themselves.

Both of these things St Paul mentions have happened throughout the history of the Christian Church; She has suffered both from persecution and from heresy and schism. We continue to see these things happening today. Just as our Lord prayed for the preservation of the flock, we also should pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering persecution in places like Syria, Egypt, Middle East in general, and also places like China and N. Korea, Iran, and the list goes on. These parts of the world are filled with people who literally risk their lives every single day to be followers of our Lord and Saviour. The Fathers tell us to live in such a way that we’re ready to die at any moment; this is the only way to survive when your physical life is threatened daily just for being a Christian. We also continue to deal with attacks from inside the Church, from schism and heresy. Whether it’s bishops breaking away from one another for various reasons, or leaders and people in the Church teaching false doctrine, or especially tempting today is the struggle between the changing morals of society (from abortion to homosexuality to syncretism and beyond) and the steadfast Truths proclaimed for over 2,000 years by the Church. There will always be those attempting to destroy the Church of Christ – our Lord says it, and history has demonstrated it time and time again.

As I always like to ask – how does this impact me today? Here are 4 simple things for our daily lives to help us do what Christ has prayed we able to do, and avoid what St. Paul has warned us to avoid.

1 – we follow Christ’s example and we pray for those suffering persecutions in the world (that we all may be one);
2 – we continually strive to follow Christ with the fervor of the persecuted, with the ardor and the love of the Apostles and of all the Saints (repentance – turning our back on the world and constantly reorienting ourselves toward Christ);
3 – we reinforce both our spiritual life and our understanding of our Faith by the regular reading of the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers/Mothers/Saints of the Church;
4 – both individually and as a community, we stand strong in the Faith and we don’t let ourselves be swayed in the wind by various fads and the constantly fluctuating morals of our society.

God is the same today, yesterday, and forever – and we’re called to follow Him. As our Lord prayed to the Father – may we be kept in His Holy Name, following in His footsteps, both working out our own salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord, and also spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Post by Matthew Jackson

Advertisements