Today’s gospel reading is from John 17:11-19, and Jesus is praying to the Father about his own. The ones the Father has “given him.”
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the Evil One.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
They do not belong to the world…
It is often said that Christians are in the world, but not of the world. What does this mean in reality? How can I delineate this for myself?
A Big Bowl Of Spaghetti
To me, I think living in the world is kind of like being a part of a big bowl of spaghetti. Living in the world but not of the world can quickly start to look like a big pile of noodles difficult to sort out. But in truth, even noodles take on different value when put into different dishes.
The nourishment of a spaghetti dinner was a traditional meal that we as cheerleaders and football players would eat on those super-charged Friday nights in the fall before the big game. We needed strength and energy for the duration and “broke (garlic) bread” together in the school cafeteria before a home game. We knew if we only had noodles and bread we would be on the floor–spent–in an hour. The smart athlete added some meatballs or meat sauce to their meal. Like our diets, our spiritual lives need some real sustenance to sustain ourselves.
When we are in the world doing “all the things“–soccer games, concerts, shopping, etc.–we are distracting ourselves with earthly comforts and joys. There are certain things we do to celebrate happy events and accomplishments and I am not talking about those things. It’s when we distract ourselves by doing things that are used to numb our sorrow or emptiness that we start to become “of the world.” These things only bring a shallow happiness that burns off about as fast as those empty carbs. Someone who is in the world but not of the world knows our true source of joy is only found in God and the silent place where God speaks to our hearts. From there, we gain sustenance from sources such as the Eucharist, the sacramental life and our faith community.
Consecrate them in the truth…
We are in the world when truth becomes hidden and confusing (back to the picture of the pasta if you must, as for me I am full.) I prayed with this phrase for a few minutes. What does it mean to be consecrated in the truth? If we break out the meaning of these words we get:
Consecrate: beatify, dedicate, bless, ordain, sanctify
Truth: authenticity, certainty, veracity
If I am consecrated in the truth because I am a believer in Christ, I am set apart to be authentic and dedicated to the Lord. I am dedicated to glorify Him with certainty. He blesses me with certainty. He sanctifies me with veracity. Spend a moment in prayer now with any of these words. Do any of them attract you?
If I am in the world, I understand that God is my truth and His ways are higher than my ways. I am not the bottom line of the report, He is. I am not the way, He is. I am set apart because I know that I seek Him first in order to find my way out of the entanglement and confusion of a world where the very meaning of truth has been “cancelled.”
His word is truth. Truth is transcendent as is His word. No one can take it from us. You can remove Christian books from major marketplaces online, but the truth is still there. Whether it’s for delivery in two days for free with your membership or not.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil one…
Why do you think this line is in this scripture? John could have recorded that Jesus was praying to the Father, but he made sure to include that Jesus didn’t want us removed from the world, but that we would end up needing the Father’s protection in it. We need to be here to point the way to God. God is faithful and has not abandoned souls. Evil has always been part of mankind’s history and to ignore it or deny it would be “of the world.” To see the reality of good and evil, truth and lies, is to acknowledge our need for God and His good plan for us. If you see backlash in your life on this point, it probably means you are doing a good job of not being “of the world.” Where we hope and strive for peace, we will always experience resistance from outside forces which push against truth and love. Our job as “them” and “they” that Jesus is referring to in today’s gospel, is to repent and pray. Seek God first. All will be well. Then we will (as he tells us in his prayer to his Father) experience joy completely.