Before my family moved into our dream house, we lived in a wooden Quonset hut. The rooms were very small and the walls fell short of the ceiling. As I drifted into sleep I liked to hear the voices of my father and mother talking.
In today’s gospel we are privileged to hear Jesus speaking to his Abba in very intimate and loving fashion. Better yet, we hear his prayer for us, and his tender love for us:
Father, they are your gift to me.
After all the trouble we have caused him, we might be surprised to hear him make such a statement. We have not often experienced our church as a gift to Jesus; we have more often thought of ourselves as his particular cross to bear. For that matter, few among us consider themselves very precious gifts to Jesus.
But in the late evening hours of the Last Supper, as Jesus prepares for his ordeal, we overhear how tenderly he loves us. And we hear him say, “You loved them even as you loved me.” Again we are startled by this word.
Jesus, the Son of God, is surely the most blessed of all men. No one’s talents or gifts can hold a candle to his privilege as the Son. But Jesus knows something more about his Father and us. The Father has loved us in and through the Son. We are his body, we have eaten his flesh and drunk his blood. We are Christ in His Father's eyes.
Why is that so hard to grasp? We have an expression, “Any friend of yours is a friend of mine!” We are willing to extend trust and affection to our children’s friends. We don’t hesitate to greet friends of our siblings or parents. We find ways to include these strangers into our fellowship.
Jesus proudly and gratefully brings us into the presence of his Father. He claims us as his beloved people and, going further, thanks his Father for the gift of us.
On most Sundays in many Catholic churches someone is elected to bring the gifts of bread and wine to the altar. Parents explain to their children that the Mass cannot go forward without these sacred elements. And the children are eager to participate in that way. The whole family glows with the privilege. We should see in that mini-procession Jesus bringing us before God.
Is he not aware of our faults? He most certainly is. But he has purified us in his own blood, through Baptism and Eucharist, through the sacraments of Marriage, Reconciliation, Healing and Confirmation, through the ministry of priests; and he will echo the Father’s words to him, the words we overheard down in the Jordan Valley, “You are my beloved. I am well pleased with you.”