Today’s reading comes from the meditation Jesus makes with his disciples during the Last Supper. In some ways, we could understand it as part of his last will and testament. It is the culmination of the disciples’ training.
The Fourth Gospel presents Jesus in the light of the female figure of Wisdom in Jewish writings, the one who gathers disciples, teaches them with a view to their becoming “friends of God”. Jesus tells those around him that the term “servants” is no longer applicable to them, as they have progressed to the final level: their training is now complete. Normally, disciples would choose the rabbi whose teachings they found most
meaningful and by which they could order their life. Jesus is unusual, in that, as he says, “You did not choose me, no, I chose you.”
There is also, in this passage, a hint of the making of a covenant between Jesus and his disciples. There is no account in John of the instituting of the Eucharist with its mention of the cup containing “the blood of the covenant” and the giving of the command to “do this in memory of me”, as we find in the versions of Mark, Matthew and Luke. Here, we find Jesus saying, “This is my commandment: love one another” and in this way “remain” (or abide) in his love, which is the reflection of the Father’s love for Jesus
A person’s last words are often highly valued by his or her family and friends and treated as being of great significance. People’s dying wish can be regarded as sacred and those close to them will go to great lengths to see that it is carried out, even though it may not make much sense to those left behind.
There are a couple of rather demanding ideas which occur in our Gospel reading today. One is that Jesus has chosen us, rather than the other way round. Most of us were baptised as infants and brought up in a Christian environment: sometimes people of this sort may envy those who came to the faith or the Church later in life, after making an adult decision for themselves. There are many reasons why people give up the practice of the faith, but one reason may well be that some never really believed in the first place. Each Easter, we are all invited to renew for ourselves the baptismal declaration of faith and the promises made on our behalf by our parents or godparents. We may regard this as simply a formal exercise, part of the Easter liturgy, or we can make it a really personal act of commitment to God in the person of Jesus, whom we are freely choosing to follow as disciples.
Another challenging lesson from our extract from John’s account is that Jesus sums up his commandments in the deceptively simple phrase to “love one another”. This means that we have to be much more aware of ourselves and how we treat other people – a rather challenging prospect.
- John uses the female figure of Wisdom, who functions as God’s agent, from the Jewish scriptures, to express his understanding of Jesus and his mission.
- The female figure of Wisdom (Hokmah or Sophia) becomes the masculine Word (Logos) in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel.
The training of the disciples of Wisdom or Jesus is complete when they can be described as “friends of God”.
Read through the Renewal of Baptismal Promises from the Easter Vigil liturgy: renew them in the light of today’s reading, making the Sign of the Cross with holy water.