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The perfect priesthood of Christ and the longest prayer in the Gospels

On the Readings for May 21, 2023, the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

Jesus saying farewell to his eleven remaining disciples, from the "Maesta" (1308-11) by Duccio, [Wikipedia]

• Acts 1:12-14
• Psa 27:1, 4, 7-8
• 1 Pt 4:13-16
• Jn 17:1-11a

“Our Father, who art in heaven…” You know the rest. We are all familiar with The Lord’s Prayer, given by Jesus to his disciples (see Matt 6:9-13). It is an essential Christian prayer that beautifully directs our hearts and minds to the Father and helps us focus on what is most important in our lives.

As Tertullian wrote, the Lord’s Prayer “is truly the summary of the whole gospel” (CCC 2761).

But there is another, longer prayer that can also be called The Lord’s Prayer. The first part of it is heard in today’s Gospel reading, from John 17. That entire chapter of the Fourth Gospel is a prayer—the longest prayer in the Gospels—uttered aloud by Jesus to the Father in the presence of the disciples. Having spent time explaining to the disciples that He would soon be leaving them, Jesus turned to His priestly ministry. The prayer spoken on the cusp of Christ’s Passion, as He faced the stark reality of death and the grave, came to be known as the priestly prayer of Christ.

It is, in its own way, a summary of the whole gospel and a profound expression of God’s mercy and love. The Catechism explains that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 “embraces the whole economy of creation and salvation, as well as his death and Resurrection. The prayer of the Hour of Jesus always remains his own, just as his Passover ‘once for all’ remains ever present in the liturgy of his Church” (CCC 2746). Uttered in time and history by the Incarnate Word, this prayer “extends until the end of time. The prayer of this hour fills the end-times and carries them toward their consummation” (CCC 2749).

Whatever does that mean?

Jesus, as the high priest of the new and everlasting covenant, was sent by the Father to draw unto Himself—by His death and Resurrection—all those who have been given by the Father. These men and women have been called into the household of God, the Church. They are granted eternal life, which, as Jesus stated, consists of knowing God. This knowledge is not merely intellectual understanding, but is spiritual intimacy; it comes with being filled, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with the divine nature of God.

Saved by the sacrifice of the Son on the Cross, we become children of God through baptism; we are then fed and strengthened by the Body and Blood of the Lamb who came to take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29).

As Jesus prays, “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one…” (Jn 17:22).

Those who are united with Christ will share in His glory, which is the glory of the Father and the Holy Spirit, the inner life of the Trinity. As St. Peter remarked (in today’s epistle reading), we should accept the sufferings that come from being a disciple of Christ “so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.” Through faith comes eternal life and glory. “When our faith sees and comes to be truth,” wrote St. Augustine in his work, On The Trinity, “then eternity shall possess our now changed mortality.” Because the Son became flesh, our weakened flesh can be saved; it will one day be glorified, resurrected, transformed, and brought to the consummation.

In the presence of God, Augustine noted, we will have full knowledge of God: “And because it is full knowledge, the glorification will also be full and complete.”

This is undoubtedly heady stuff. But, even as we wonder at the mystery of it, we can recognize that it is heavenly. Not abstract or misty, but the vibrant, transforming stuff of the supernatural life, even more real and joyful than anything we can imagine on earth. It is the gift of the High Priest, who still intercedes on the behalf of those given to Him by His Father—Our Father. Who art in heaven.

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About Carl E. Olson 1207 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. An excellent presentation on Christ’s Prayers in the Gospel. You added knowledge on the lengthy ‘priestly prayer Jn 17, first with the correction that the Apostles were present. That’s confirmed by the last section of 16, and the first sentence.
    What preceded Ch 16 and Matthew The Lord’s Prayer is that both are instructive, insofar as to our obligation to faith in him. 17 assumes a very different character. It is his personal revelation to them, an outpouring to the Church of his great love for us. Intimate and profound. “I have given them the glory that you gave me…that the love with which you gave me may be in them”.
    Augustine’s quote adds to this, “We will have full knowledge of God: And because it is full knowledge, the glorification will also be full and complete.”

  2. When the soul enters into the presence of God, and it enters Heaven, then won’t it look much like the Garden of Eden? So it is the seeking of knowledge of God (and His — the Spirit’s presence) that will bring us and keep us in that Garden.

    When we seek to stand in the presence of God, through the essential process of sanctification, then our souls achieve the height of eternal life. Is there holiness apart from being in God’s presence? Is there being in God’s presence without being free of sin? Isn’t sin the result of separation from God?

    The Truth was revealed through the life of Christ, and the revelation of God’s presence is made known through signs. People who have visited the exhumed body of the Catholic nun in Missouri are given to better understand that.

    God exists, and dwells among us. That truth is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. So then, that message needs to be preached at greater volume, in order to reverse this nightmare of incessant global violence.

  3. The presence of God is on the minds of the thousands of people who have recently visited the incorrupt body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster in Gower, Missouri. One of my former grade school classmates (1963), whose son and his family recently made the pilgrimage to Gower, Missouri wrote to me in reply to my inquiry as to whether he had visited from his home in Independence, Missouri:

    “This Abbey is a Traditional Catholic convent. The Traditional Latin Mass, Traditional Sacraments, Traditional Orders (for the Sisters) & Traditional Teachings. Our Dear Lord seems to be telling us that this fractured & confusing world surely needs to return to the Traditional Holy Catholic Church & Her teachings & observances.”

    So then, the Lord has expressed to us his support for the Latin Mass, as opposed to the Pope’s wanting to limit that expression. The point that is important here, I think, is that it is possible to perceive the will of God through the process of seeking the revelation of signs from our Heavenly Father. He is not so remote, then, as many have thought Him to be.

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