Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you (NRSV)
I wonder what Jesus means when he says these words? …
If we are to discover answers to this question, we need to look at the context.
In our Gospel reading, time seems to have stood still. The first 12 chapters of the Gospel cover the first 33 years of Jesus’ life. Then, from the beginning of Chapter 13 right through to the end of Chapter 17, we are in the Upper Room at a Passover Meal with Jesus and his disciples, his friends. This is last evening of Jesus’ time with his disciples before the Crucifixion.
We have watched Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. We have heard him talking of the Holy Spirit who will walk alongside them, live within them, help them to be witnesses to the love of God as they live their lives. We know that these actions and these words were spoken as much for us as for the disciples’ benefit.
In what Jesus says and does, he is encouraging us to share in his priorities for our lives: serving others; receiving their service to us with grace and love; witnessing to the love of God; listening to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit; and later in Chapter 17, placing a priority on working together as one, respecting each other, knowing that without our shared fellowship and witness, we are so much poorer.
And in the middle of all this, come those words of Jesus:
Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.
I guess that there are two ways that we can think about those words.
First, there is the wider context of all that Jesus has been saying and doing in the Upper Room and the wider context of the whole prayer in John 17. He could be praying that God will be glorified through the lives of his friends. Jesus has commissioned them to serve him and they will, from now on, be the ones through whom God is glorified. This means that we are the ones to be God’s visible presence in the world. Our actions, good or bad speak about the Lord that we claim to follow and serve. Our choices and actions speak loudly about the God we say we serve. We are the ones who will glorify God. Or our behaviour and actions could bring shame on the God we say we serve. So, Jesus prays that God will be glorified by the choices we make and by our actions.
Secondly, and in line with the immediate context of John 17: 1-6, Jesus could be talking about something very different. …
When Jesus talks about himself being glorified and so bringing glory to God, it seems that he has in mind the days which immediately follow this prayer. He sees the events of the crucifixion and resurrection as being about glory! And particularly, the events of Good Friday. For Jesus, the glory of God will be revealed in him at the cross and in his resurrection. As Jesus is lifted-up in the eyes of everyone, so he gives glory to God.
Glory is to be found, not in power and influence, but in obedient submission to God’s will.
Jesus’ throne is the Cross. God’s glory is revealed in suffering. God is revealed most clearly at the place of suffering.“Father, use these next hours,” prays Jesus in John 17, “to glorify me and to glorify you.” And Jesus re-emphasises this as he says to God the Father, in John 17:4: “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.”
Jesus’ example to us is one which centres on the Cross. It is at the Cross, the place of suffering, that God’s redeeming work is done. The place of weakness is the place of glory! This is the place where we discover who God really is, and God’s glory is revealed.
We are safe in the love of God, in some mysterious way, because of the Cross.
And because of the Cross, we too can serve others without counting the cost. And if we suffer, we can be sure that, in Christ, God has walked the same journey that we walk. God is not surprised or shocked by our struggles, but there alongside us each step of the way.
Prayers for Sunday 24th May 2020 from Jesuit communities in the USA.
Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.
Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another.
Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.
Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.
Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.
Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.
Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace. …… Jesus Christ, heal us. Amen.