Christ’s Five Petitions to His Father on the Eve of His Passion

The whole of John 17 is Jesus’ impassioned plea to God on behalf of His disciples which Archbishop Fulton Sheen referred to as “…the High priestly prayer of ‘Mission accomplished'”:

In no literature can there be found the simplicity and depth, the grandeur and fervor of this last prayer.†

But about half way through we learn that this prayer is also on behalf of all future believers:

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word (vs. 20).

Jesus reasons with God, explaining the grounds for each request as well as the intended consequence. We can read these petitions as Jesus’ priorities for all Christians today.

For Unity

And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me (vss. 22-23, see also vs. 11).

Jesus asks that the same spiritual union He enjoys with the Father will be experienced by all believers. This will be the source of evangelization, manifested in the obvious distinction between the world and believers, who are united to God in love through Christ.

God’s Love is the fundamental key to understanding salvation history.

For Joy

But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely (vs. 13).

The reality was that the disciples would suffer persecution and with the exception of John eventually be martyred. Jesus’ joy is based on His union with the Father. Though He was teaching the disciples, and they believed in Him, they could not experience the joy of a spiritual union with the Father until Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection.

For Protection

When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them. …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 (vss. 14-15).

“Evil one” could also be translated just “evil” and is the same request as we make in the Our Father, “…deliver us from evil”. The reason Jesus gives for this request is that as Christians we no longer belong to the world, so we need protection from the prevalence of evil when Jesus is no longer physically here to provide it.

For Consecration

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 (vss. 17-19).

“Consecrate” is to set aside someone or something for a divine purpose, which in this case is being sent into the world to proclaim the truth. Jesus is referring to Himself by “Your word is truth” (see John’s prologue, 1:1ff.). The word for consecrate is also translated as “sanctify”, “make Holy”. Holiness cannot be separated from truth.

For a Reunion in Heaven

Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world (vs. 24).

Note the reasoning here: the basis for asking God to bring us to heaven is so that we could experience Jesus’ glory that was given to Him out of God’s love for Him from eternity. We would have to be there with Jesus for this to happen.

John comes back to this in his first epistle:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).


†Sheen, Fulton J., Life of Christ. New York: Doubleday, 2008, p. 448.

St. Paul Warns the Colossians on Syncretism

The religion of Colossae at the time was the Hellenistic worship of Zeus, Aphrodite, etc. However, the Colossians were also into astrology and maintained an openness to non-pagan religions, including Judaism. Paul had learned that this mentality had infiltrated the young Christian church there and charges them:

So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ (Col. 2: 6-8).

Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath (vs. 16).

If you died with Christ to the elemental powers of the world, why do you submit to regulations as if you were still living in the world? “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These are all things destined to perish with use; they accord with human precepts and teachings (vs. 20-22).

Continue reading “St. Paul Warns the Colossians on Syncretism”

The Significance of the ‘Stone Jars’ at the Wedding in Cana

Mary comes to Jesus and reports that the wine for the wedding feast had run out. He answers,

“Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”

In Greek “woman” (guné) has a broader range of meaning than the English equivalent. It’s more often the word for “wife” in the New Testament, as it is in Hebrew and Aramaic. Jesus prefers it for a personal reason since there is no precedent in the Bible for calling your mother “woman”.

Jesus made numerous references to His “hour” and they all refer to His future Passion: His suffering, death, and resurrection. Since it would have been years away, the reference to it at the beginning of His ministry is curious. Continue reading “The Significance of the ‘Stone Jars’ at the Wedding in Cana”

Married Priests

Future historians may have a remarkable irony to wonder about with respect to married catholic priests. In the Middle Ages, the Gregorian Reform movement needed four councils and over a hundred years to restore celibacy to the priesthood. Today, a regional synod (Amazon) made up of a handful of hand-picked bishops took two-weeks to decide that celibacy should be divorced from the priesthood.

In the year AD 1100, historians argue, the vast majority of priests in Europe were married and raising families. Priests were forbidden from marrying but in the tumult after the collapse of Charlemagne’s empire it ignored, tolerated, or was otherwise unable to do anything about it. Continue reading “Married Priests”

6 Factors that Could Sway the Next Conclave

Over the last year I’ve read dozens of articles speculating on the outcome of next conclave. Some will handicap the potential candidates while others discourage it. My takeaway is that in the next conclave the cardinals will give certain factors more weight than others.

Curial Reform

This is surely the big one. In his recent review of a book on the conclave that elected Pope Francis, Conor Dugan points out the obvious:

…An anonymous cardinal stated that they needed to elect a pope “who knows how to reform the Curia and make it more credible and transparent.”

…What are we to make between the yawning gap between what the cardinals saw as the need to reform the Curia and the actual results of that reform seven years into this [Francis’] papacy?  …The scandals continue. The lack of transparency abounds. What basis did the cardinals have to believe that Cardinal Bergoglio had the experience and administrative skills to pull this feat off? (link).

Continue reading “6 Factors that Could Sway the Next Conclave”

St. Hildegard Warns on Compromising Church Authority

In 2018 the Pope cut a deal with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) which gave the Chinese government the power to make episcopal appointments. While the Vatican can accept or reject the candidates, history shows that papal accords that compromise its authority end badly and this one is ending very badly.

Hildegard detested Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (AD 1122-1190) for his determination to make ecclesial appointments. Not uncharacteristically, she responds by assuming her role as a prophet of the Old Testament type, delivering threats in the first-person voice of God:

“He who Is says: By My own power I do away with the obstinacy and rebellion of those who scorn me. Woe, O woe to the evil of those wicked ones who spurn me. Hear this O king, if you wish to live. Otherwise my sword will pierce you”.†

Continue reading “St. Hildegard Warns on Compromising Church Authority”

Judas Lectures Jesus on the Poor

On the eve of Passion Week, Jesus spent the Sabbath at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, who He had recently raised from the dead. In an act of love and gratitude Mary broke open a container of expensive perfumed oil to anoint Jesus’s feet. John’s eyewitness report has Judas boldly accusing Mary and Jesus of insensitivity towards the poor:

Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” (John 12 :3-6)

Continue reading “Judas Lectures Jesus on the Poor”

Pope Francis: A Perspective on his Infallibility

Until the First Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution, Pastor Aeternus (1870), papal infallibility had never been formally defined by the Church:

[W]hen the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.

Continue reading “Pope Francis: A Perspective on his Infallibility”

‘Let Your Yes Mean No and Your No Mean Yes’

Didn’t Jesus teach us not to speak with equivocation or ambiguity?

“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37).

Does this not also apply to Church authorities? Every day they send mixed signals on matters of faith and morals that had been historically established as revealed tradition and steadfastly upheld for millennia.

In some dioceses priests are expected to accept to Holy Communion remarried couples whose marriages were never declared null based on an understanding of a brief footnote in Pope Francis’ encyclical Amoris Laetitia (e.g., San Diego).  Others bishops see it differently and have forbidden their priests to give communion to those whom Jesus regarded as adulterers (e.g., Philadelphia). And Rome is fine with this? Continue reading “‘Let Your Yes Mean No and Your No Mean Yes’”