This week, on the 8th hole at Wolferts Roost, my golf partner—Dave McGuire—had a long 15 ft. putt for birdie. As luck would have it, the ball approached and then lipped right out at the very end, teasing around the cup a bit. Dave exclaimed, “Why is it when the pros do it, it always goes in?!” to which I replied, “Dave, you’re not even an amateur!”
As I watch the pros play, like 21-year old Jordan Spieth, I want to be able to play like them. I want to know his practice routines, what does he do to prepare for a tournament, what does he avoid eating on the course, what’s he think between holes or while he’s walking any given fairway, how he imagines a long putt and then sinks it. My reason: I want to be able to play like him and get the same results. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If I imitate his play, I can imitate his results.
In fact, I can recall being in seminary as a young seminarian just starting out and my classmates and I would listen to the older men just ready to be ordained. We wanted to hear them give us their wisdom; give us their insights, to help us along our own way. During those years of seminary, I can remember continually asking my spiritual director how I was supposed to pray to get the best effect, how I should examine my conscience for the best spiritual benefit, and so on. His response was very helpful: “there is no set pattern,” he would say, “but it’s from the heart of who you are and who Christ is that you’ll be a good priest.”
In today’s gospel, right before Jesus is about to be betrayed and crucified, he allowed his disciples to see into his heart, to witness the Son of God speaking to God the Father. Although the language can be confusing, the message is clear: Jesus and the Father are in a deep, very deep relationship of intimate love. And from that awesome relationship, Jesus brings in His followers, not merely by letting them hear his heartfelt prayer, but by sharing His care and passion for them with the Father. What a gift! They hear from His lips His holy longing for each one of them; they hear Jesus appeal to the Father from His heart on their behalf, for their good, for their protection and salvation.
From this witness, we can only begin to imagine His disciples’ response: sure they knew that He loved each one of them, but that He would directly petition the Father for each one of them impresses upon them the esteem in which the Lord held His followers. From their hearing, Jesus was truly their Good Shepherd.
For us, it’s no different. I want to be a good and holy and selfless priest. Sure, some of my friends continue to guide me, help shape me along the way. You all continue to help me with good critiques and supportive encouragement. But when all is said and done, it is the image that Christ offers in today’s gospel—and the entire Gospel—that is the greatest help. Not only for me, but for each one of us: to be a good follower and disciple of the Lord Jesus is to love one another with a full and complete heart.
Yes, by sharing this prayer with us, Jesus lets us in to the deepest recesses of His soul. And what’s on His heart? The Father’s glory; the souls He came to save; the successful fulfillment of His life’s mission…and a great and eternal appeal for all who would believe in Him: that they—and thus WE—would share in His eternal life.
And this is the Good News of Jesus: His love—for each and every one of us…and all others—continually moves Him to petition the Father on our behalf and for our holiness. What remains is how we will respond to such a gift. If we can imitate such a loving heart, then we can imitate the path of the Lord Jesus and come to rest in Him for all time and eternity.
Today, may each of us recall that throughout His whole earthly life, Jesus Christ offered us the great gift of His undying love so that our love too, would never die. Even now, in this Eucharist, Christ continuously offers us the gift of His undying love. May Jesus’ gift of His prayer continue to inspire us to put our belief in Him, to allow ourselves to be taught by Him, to let ourselves be guided toward Him, …all our days.