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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

291. Truth and Joy (John 17:12-19)

May 9, 2018 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Meditations, The Better Part

“But whenever we think of Christ, let us always bear in mind that love of his which drove him to bestow upon us so many gifts and graces.” – St. Teresa of Avila

John 17:12-19  ‘While I was with them, I kept those you had given me true to your name. I have watched over them and not one is lost except the one who chose to be lost, and this was to fulfill the scriptures. But now I am coming to you and while still in the world I say these things to share my joy with them to the full. I passed your word on to them, and the world hated them, because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world. I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect 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, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth.'

Christ the Lord  Jesus Christ did not hoard his power. He did not reserve his greatness just for himself. He was indeed the Savior sent by God into the world, but he chose to carry out his saving mission through the ministry of his followers: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” In the Liturgy, the Church puts this thought before our minds as the Easter season is drawing to a close. We have received its message of hope, of triumph, and of everlasting life; now our Lord is counting on us to broadcast that message throughout the world, by means of our words, our example, and our actions. He was sent, and he has in turn sent us.

A core principle of human leadership is delegation: good leaders know that they cannot do everything alone, so they find qualified people and divide the tasks among them. The case of Christ and his Church is analogous, except for one key difference. Jesus Christ delegates not because he is unable to run his Kingdom without our assistance, but because he wants to give our lives eternal resonance by entrusting to us a mission that has real, everlasting consequences. He is the head who rules through the different members of his body, not because he has to, but because he wants to. In taking up the invitation to become his ambassadors, we come closer to him. We get to kn ow him better, just as you always get to know people better when you work on a project together. We get to know ourselves better, and under his guidance we are able to develop all the qualities he has given us, qualities we may not even know we have (but he knows, since he gave them to us). The chance to work with Christ and for his Kingdom is one of his greatest gifts. It's how we become not just subjects of the Lord, but friends of the King.

John 17:12-19Christ the Teacher  The world gets bad press in this passage. Christ asserts that he does not belong to the world, and neither do his disciples, who have been “consecrated,” which literally means “set apart,” just as he has been. The world “hated” Christ and his followers, and yet it was that very world which Jesus came to save.

The “world” in this passage refers not to the created universe, which comes forth from God's hand as something “very good” (Gn 1:31), but to the forces of human society that have been corrupted by sin, the tendency of many social and cultural norms to lure us away from the steep but liberating path of fidelity to Christ and his friendship. In this sense, the world is one of the Christian's traditional enemies; it is the kingdom of the devil as opposed to the Kingdom of God, the city of fallen man as opposed to the city of God. As St. Augustine described them, the former is ruled by love for self to the point of despising God, while the latter is ruled by love for God to the point of self-sacrifice.

A Christian can never be completely at home in this world, never completely happy or comfortable. We are pilgrims traversing a dangerous route to heaven, soldiers marching from battle to battle in defense of our King. We must never be surprised at the challenges and opposition that we encounter; indeed, every obstacle should boost our hope, reminding us that just ahead we will find home.

Christ the Friend  Before he returned to his Father, Jesus prayed for his disciples. He prays that we may be consecrated in the truth, just as he is consecrated in the truth. He asks the Father to transplant our lives so that they may become rooted int he lasting, dependable, and rich soil of the truth. He is praying that we be given the grace to build our lives on the solid foundation of God's Word, so that when the storms come (the hatred of the world, the attacks of the evil one), we will stand strong.

What is the truth? What is the word of the Father? Pilate will soon ask the same question, and Jesus will give the definitive answer: he is the Truth; he is the Word. And when we look at him, what do we see? Love. Total self-giving and total concern for others, even to the point of self-annihilation on the cross. This is where Jesus wants us to root our lives – in love. And this conseccration to the truth of love is the secret to lasting joy, to sharing in Christ's own joy: “I say these things to share my joy with them to the full.”

Jesus: My child, I know what will fill your heart — love. I know what's at the bottom of your soul, because I created you. It is the need to love and be loved, to discover that another person is delighted that you exist, and to be glad in the existence of that other person. This is the deepest truth of your being, because I made you in my own image, and this is the deepest truth of my being. That night when I prayed for my Apostles to be consecrated in the truth, I was asking my Father to keep the flame of love alive forever in the heart of the Church, so that it can continuously spread love among all people, and so that it would eventually kindle that flame in your heart. I need to remind you that I am glad that you exist. Not because of what you can do for me, but just because you are. You don't need to earn my lvoe; you just need to enjoy it. And if you do, you will be true to the mission I have given you, the same mission I have given to the whole Church distributing the embrace of my love to every heart. Know that when I see you (which I always do), I smile, because I am pleased that you exist.

Christ in My Life  You have sent me out, just as your Father sent you out. You have sent me into the lives of those around me, into this society and this culture, just as your Father sent you into the world. You want me to be true to your will, to love my neighbor as you have loved me, just as you were true to the Father's will. You have put your mission into my hands. Than you, Lord! With you at my side, I have nothing to fear…

Why am I still surprised when things go wrong, when tragedy strikes, or when failure brings me to my knees? Why do I keep thinking earth should be heaven? O Lord, shine your light into my mind. Give me the mind and heart of a pilgrim, a soldier, a missionary. REmind me everyday that this life is a journey, a battle, and a mission. Remind me that with you in my heart I can travel and fight and work with joy and peace, no matter what…

Everything around me reminds me of your love. Every sunset is a gift flowing from your love. All the little pleasures of the day, all the beautiful memories of my life, all the hopes that fire my heart, all the goodness I receive from those who love me: all these eremind me of your love. It all comes from you. You shine your love all around me, showering me with your light. Keep me aware of your goodness, Lord. Jesus, never let me forget your love…

 

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

Editor's Note: For those whose diocese/archdiocese celebrates the Solemnity of the Ascension on Thursday (tomorrow), this reflection is tailored to the Gospel for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The reflection for the Solemnity of the Ascension can be also be found on site today!

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Art for this post on John 17:12-19: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. The Last Sermon of Our Lord, James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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