And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. (John 17:11-13)

Jesus, couldn’t you have chosen more life-affirming images for us to remember you by? Broken body; poured out blood; couldn’t you have picked your joyous laughter or even your piercing eyes? As it is, what are we to make of your asking God to protect us when you chose not to protect yourself? We won’t even mention that almost all who heard you that first “Maundy Thursday” were reported to have suffered violent and painful deaths? Protection? Joy? Hardly!

Unless, of course, you were speaking of a completely different kind of protection, a radically surprising form of joy? Perhaps you were referring to a protection of our greatest gift from you, not our body but our relationship with you? And might you have been talking about a joy found not in being distracted from life’s inevitable suffering, but by fully facing our and others’ suffering until we experience your mystery that nothing can separate us from you and your love?

Precious Jesus, break us open to the way God most certainly has answered, even to this very day, your dying and ever-living prayers of protection and joy for us! Amen.

Dr. Bill Gandin - Your fellow struggler

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