So much of what I take in right now is through skimming—skimming through headlines, through Instagram photos, through social media posts and hashtags and the subject lines of the flood of emails all clamoring to tell me the urgency of countless issues. I can read an article or an essay and realize at the end that I’ve skipped a whole paragraph. And that’s if I’ve actually made it to the end of an article.
This week’s Gospel cannot be skimmed. John’s Gospel often reads like a Zen koan, more beat poem than logical argument. And Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, a part of which we heard on Sunday, can feel dense and abstract and mystifying—so much giving and keeping and belonging and being in the world but not of the world but sent into the world.
But—it is a prayer. It is not meant to be skimmed, but savored.
The inimitable professor who taught me the Gospel of John, Sandra Schneiders, drummed into our class a crucial point: all disciples, in all of time, are first-generation disciples. The Gospel is not a record of events we didn’t participate in; it’s the way in which we participate in the event of Jesus NOW.
That means this is Jesus’ prayer for us, NOW. We are the disciples he is praying for. Can it pull us out of our digital skimming—you’re probably doing it right here, right now. It’s OK—and into a moment of contemplation?
Read it again, slowly, savoring the small, loaded words: keep, one, come, give, joy, name, sent, truth.
Those small words accumulate meaning through the events and relationships that make up our lives. Who and what do we keep? What do we give, and what are we given? What are we sent for? What is our truth? Where is our joy?
What does it mean to be “one” with the God who is love?
We, too, are sent into the world while knowing the almighty tension of the “not yet”—that this broken and beautiful world is where we must work to bring God’s love to greater perfection. And yet, we ultimately belong to the kin-dom of God, which is, somehow, so close and still beyond this world.
We who do justice work often live with our muscles tensed, waiting to rise up, spring into action. This is necessary. But it is also necessary to contemplate, to savor the prayer Jesus offers us, to literally be still and remain in love. Because that love sends us forth equipped to do the work, and the work must continually circle us back to the stillness where God’s love waits.
Katie Lacz is a mother, an M.Div., and a spiritual director living outside Boulder, CO. She currently works as Program Associate for the Women’s Ordination Conference. A former Jesuit Volunteer (Raleigh ’06-’07), she continues to seek the magis while living in the messy and beautiful work of raising her two small children.