The mystical intimacy and poetic beauty of this prayer of Jesus with the Father make any attempt to summarize it quite futile. The following highlights of the prayer are intended merely to serve as an aid to memory for personal reflection: the hour has come when the mystery of eternal life is revealed in glory; to know the Father and Jesus Christ is eternal life; Jesus prays for all who believe in him in every age; Jesus is no longer in the world, but those who accept him remain in the world to manifest his glory.
First there is the gift of peace and joy that comes from the realization that Jesus talks with us and prays for us at our Eucharist just as he talked with his disciples and prayed for them at the Last Supper. He tells us that though we, like them, remain in a world of darkness and death, our hearts need not be troubled and afraid: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33).
In his prayer Jesus reveals the meaning of eternal life: it is to know the Father and to know him, the one the Father has sent into the world. John, in the section of his gospel preceding the prayer, fully elaborates what Jesus means by “knowing” the Father and the one whom the Father has sent. Jesus knows the Father and the Father knows Jesus because they live in each other: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn 14:10)?
To receive the gift of the divine “knowing” that is eternal life means to share in the relation of love between Father and his Son, Jesus Christ: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you” (Jn 14:20).
In praying with the Spirit we come to know more deeply that Jesus came into the world to manifest the glory of the Father’s name through love, ultimately the act of love on the cross. To be a disciple in our world today means to manifest the same divine glory through love so that all may come to enjoy the gift of eternal life. “Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you . . . I made known to them your name . . . that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (Jn 17: 25-26).
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.