John 17: 20-26
Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2016
TEXT: "Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may
be with me where I am, to see my glory.”
"As the fish perishes on dry land, so you perish when you get entangled in the world. The fish must return to the water -- you must return to solitude."
The businessman asked nervously, "You mean I have to go into a monastery?"
"No, no," replied the monk. "Hold onto your business and go into your heart."
In today's Gospel Lesson, Jesus prays, "Father, I desire that those also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am" (Jn. 17:24). In order to be with Him, we who have been given to Jesus Christ, must go into our hearts.
What this story suggests for us is that in order to enjoy Christ's Presence to the fullest, in order to be with Him where He is, we need to schedule appointments like that for ourselves. We need to schedule times of solitude, times of silence -- times of prayer, if you will -- times when we must go into our hearts.
There is a "Peanuts" cartoon in which little Linus is afraid to be alone in the library. Charlie Brown tries to explain to him that everyone is lonely in some place or other. "Where is that place for you?" Linus asks. Charlie ponders the question for a moment, then answers, "Earth!"
Charlie Brown answers for us all. Who among us has not felt that awful feeling that our big wide world is a lonely place; that there is nowhere to go for relief.
When we look at Jesus, we might conclude that He must have been the loneliest man of all ...
John the Baptist was perplexed by Him.
The disciples were puzzled by Him.
His parents were confused about Him.
Government leaders and religious authorities suspected Him.
His closest friends deserted Him.
Judas betrayed Him.
Peter denied Him.
His enemies plotted against Him.
The crowds shouted "Crucify Him."
The thief on a cross ridiculed Him.
Bystanders at the Crucifixion taunted Him.
Yet, He was never lonely! The evening of His arrest, Jesus calmly announced to His disciples,
Listen! The time will come --
in fact it has come already --
when you will be scattered, each going his own way,
and leaving Me alone.
And yet I am not alone,
because the Father is with Me (Jn. 16:32).
Earlier, Jesus had said to the disciples, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you." (Jn. 14:18). And later, after His Resurrection, He promised them, "... know that I am with you always" (Mt. 28:20). Jesus promises us that He will never leave us, never abandon us, never desert us. We have His solemn assurance that we are never alone.
Jesus was a lonely figure during His forty-day retreat into the desert before He began His public ministry. Jesus was a lonely figure when He prayed in the place called Gethsemane. Jesus was a lonely figure along the Way of the Cross. Jesus was a lonely figure when He cried out from the Cross "My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?" (Mk. 16:34). But even in the utter loneliness of His death, Jesus continued to long passionately for the company of His Heavenly Father.
God is Love, Scripture tells us. And our passionate longing for the Heavenly Father is a longing for love. Sometimes we struggle to reach through to the God of Love as though God were strange and hard to find. Sometimes we are so intent on our search that we pass God by. We try to turn to God as though God were a vague abstraction, and we get lost in a maze of words. And then ... and then ... we go into our hearts, where the Heavenly Father has taken up permanent residence in the Person of Jesus Christ. We go into our hearts where Jesus Christ is our constant companion. There we discover, and re-discover, that He is speaking to us with a thousand voices, revealing Himself in a thousand faces.
Longing for God -- longing for Love -- is like longing for air when all the time we are breathing it. It is like longing for the sun when all the time we are basking in it.
When we honestly and truly go into our hearts and recognize Him as the God of Love, we see God everywhere. We see God looking at us through the eyes of mothers and fathers; grandmothers and grandfathers; children; friends; neighbors; strangers; even enemies, so called. We feel God’s Presence in every touch of a friendly, healing hand. We hear God’s voice in every kindly word. We find God in every loving thought, word and deed, and we are at one with Him. And we are never alone!
A mother was telling her little girl about life on the farm when she was growing up. "I had great fun on the farm," she said. "I had my own swing made from an old car tire that hung from an oak tree. I had a pony to ride. I used to slide down the haystack in the summer. And when it snowed, I would ride in a sleigh pulled by one of the horses. My life on the farm was a really joyful experience." The daughter's eyes lit up as she said to her mother, "I sure wish I had met you sooner."
When you honestly and truly go into your heart, where Christ is your constant companion, you will hear a voice saying, "You should have come here sooner! You must schedule more appointments like this. You've never experienced such joy!" And the voice you hear will be your own!