“Father can you pray for me?” Ask any priest and that’s almost as common a greeting as “How are you?” While often times people will ask for those prayers because of a certain thing that they are facing that has them troubled or anxious – “My dad’s sick” “My grandmother passed away” “I’m going for a job interview tomorrow” – there’s a great number of times when they can’t express what exactly it is that they need, why it is they’re asking. They just feel this sense, this need to have someone interceding on their behalf to God. It’s a gift of being a priest that people do reach out in that way asking for those prayers. There’s a trust either in the priest himself or just the priesthood in that asking that has the person reaching out in this way that they want someone to join them in their prayers for their needs.
The beautiful thing that today’s Gospel reminds us of is that Jesus himself prays for us. I don’t think that’s something people often remember – and sadly something a lot of people even know. Jesus himself prays for me and you. We come to His mind and His heart – He sees our potential, our set backs – our best shots, our near misses and as our truest friend – is constantly interceding for us.
But it’s not in a “I want Jim to win the power-ball lotto” (believe me I’ve asked and it’s not happened). It’s bigger, more wide reaching, much more important of a prayer. We just heard it in today’s Gospel: “that they may share my joy completely.” Jesus’ is constantly focused on our “joy.”
Joy doesn’t necessarily mean “Happy.” We often think of them as being synonyms. And Joy often contains feelings of happiness. But those feelings can be short lived. Joy is something a bit more wide-reaching, long lasting – something more certain.
If you go back in the Gospel and read the great “sermon on the mount,” the famous “Beatitudes” where Jesus goes through the list of people who Jesus calls“Blessed” you find quite a list. He says things like – the poor in spirit – those who mourn those hungering and thirsting for righteousnes – the persecuted for His sake… they are “blessed.” In other translations though, the word that’s used isn’t “blessed” but “Joyful.” I remember the first time learning that it was kind of eye-opening. Because for the most part – those are people who are the last people we would consider experiencing “joy.” The most obvious being those who are mourning. They aren’t happy… they’re grieving. What makes them blessed? How can Jesus say they are “joyful.”
That’s where this prayer of Jesus is so important. Jesus’ prayer that we share His joy – is that we don’t ever lose sight of His presence in our lives… that we never doubt in His deep, abiding, love for us… Even when we feel distant from Him because of things we’ve done or things we’re going through – He has not forgotten us, He’s not distant, His love isn’t contingent on what we do. His love is complete, eternal.
He knows that as we go through the roller coaster of emotions in the extremes of life;
as we encounter the daily struggles, and strife of the world –
as the things and people of this world constantly tempt us, demean us for ever casting our eyes upwards to Him – that we will indeed face troubles. That’s putting it mildly, He says that we will be “hated.”
He sees that – He knows that is something that every single one of His followers will face. And that weighs heavily on His heart as He prays for us, as He intercedes for us.
His hope, His prayer is that we never forget… we never lose sight that he never forgets, never loses sight of us. And that this knowledge remains with us … That this knowledge will bring us joy.