The Gospel text set before us today gives us one of the most fervent prayers of Christ; he prays ‘that they may all be one.’ It is a prayer that comes to mind whenever we think about the question of Christian Unity. Christ obviously does not want his Church to be disunited, but yet it clearly is.
Today we commemorate a crucial point in the story of our salvation. Christ having done all that he came to do now ascends to the Father. His great work is now handed on to his disciples to bring to completion. But this is no task that can be worked out in a few years. No, it is an undertaking that will take his followers till the very end of time to bring to its glorious conclusion
The text set before us today is part of the long speech that Jesus gave at the Last Supper after the Washing of the Feet. It is only John that gives us this speech but it is important because it includes the very heart of the teaching of Jesus.
This Sunday the Church invites us to look back at the Last Supper to the words Jesus spoke to the Apostles after Judas had left the room. The words he speaks to them are words of tenderness and affection. He calls them little children; an expression which has a very gentle and endearing tone to it. Presumably he means that in comparison to his own complete knowledge of how things really are the Apostles only have a hesitant and partial knowledge of what is actually going on.
This Sunday is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday since in each year of the Liturgical Cycle an extract from the tenth chapter of St John’s Gospel is read. This chapter gives us the teaching of Jesus to his disciples about his role as the Good Shepherd. It is a particularly wonderful image and down the centuries Christ has often been depicted in Christian art as the Good Shepherd; often he is portrayed as carrying a lamb on his shoulders or leading a flock of sheep.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket