Daily Reflection
June 7th, 2000
Carolyn Comeaux Meeks
Grants Administration Office
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Acts 20:28-38
Psalms 68:29-30, 33-36
John 17:11-19

Somewhere between “Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough!” and its corollary, “The world is too much with us!” is the space in which most of us live.  We experience “the world” as beautiful, enthralling, full of mystery in the good sense, and full of wonder….. and then we experience the world as incredibly addicted to values not our own, with attendant negative energies such as greed, mystery in the bad sense, sloth, indifference, and even hatred.

I have usually leaned toward experiencing this world as sacred, and so my first reaction to today’s passage of John’s gospel is a bit of resistance.  I don’t want to polarize the sacred between “the world” and what’s not “the world.”  I want to keep life whole.  I hold in memory, as just one example, childhood days at my grandmother’s farm in Louisiana, with a bayou and lazy willow and cypress trees and the constant drone of grasshoppers and the occasional blue crane.  Outings to Grandma’s farm with my many brothers and sisters were times of peace, tranquility, awe in just being, and conversations that touched a level in me such that I can still remember their tone, their subject matter, their simple joy.  Other examples abound.

But the prayer of Jesus during his last days alludes to a different kind of world, a world of danger and people and plotting and conniving and turf-protecting—a world dark and ugly and threatening, and especially so to the friends of God who had gathered around the person of Jesus.  Surely Jesus was sensing what was about to transpire in his own life….his approaching humiliation, suffering, and death at the hands of a corporate system gone awry.  Jesus, in this gospel passage, and later Paul, in the Acts passage, are both all-too-aware of the threatening “world” that could squelch the message—and the people!—of faith and truth that Jesus had been carrying. 

I can connect with these words by recalling the day of my first child’s birth, when after a nap I came to consciousness to the sound of the background TV evening news, and Walter Cronkite reporting that there was a possible nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island.  The companion to the joy of the birth was a shadow sadness that I had birthed a baby into a glaringly dangerous world indeed.  And then 12 years later, the day after my fourth child was born, I received a call saying that my younger sister had just been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer.  I remember feeling with that news that life itself is fragile, vulnerable—and that internal, possibly genetic threats were ever as real as external threats like nuclear accidents or war or human violence.  My prayer in those first weeks and months of these newborn lives was quite similar to Jesus’ in this gospel passage: “I do not pray that thou should take them out of the world, but that thou should keep them from the evil one.”

This prayer passage from Jesus, almost parental in tone, is from one who has experienced life both in its glory and in its personal and institutionalized evil.  He knows he has given an awesome gift—Life—to this small group of very flawed individuals, and he knows that this new Life will be at-risk in the larger world.  He has “birthed” a new, fledgling faith community out of a divine love, and he knows that these people will feel lost, abandoned, and vulnerable just a few days hence.

In fact, the threatening “world” of his prayer would soon include one Saul, a prominent persecutor of the nascent Christians after Jesus died.  Saul “hated them, because they are not of the world, even as (Jesus is) not of the world.”  Saul took it upon himself to rid the world of these pesky believers.  

The first reading today has this same Saul, now converted and renamed Paul, warning his numerous Christian friends to beware of the “fierce wolves” that will come in and try to destroy their faith-flock after he leaves.  That Paul, a “fierce wolf” himself in his earlier days, would experience a transformation through Christ is a testament to the power of the truth—the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the power of Truth to “get through” the world’s resistance and finally to reach its natural home—the human heart.

Jesus’ simple prayer to his Father -- “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth” -- can be ours today.  May the Truth of God’s love reach our very real and fragile and vulnerable human hearts, and embolden us to live and speak and work in this Truth.

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