I wonder how the apostles felt when they witnessed the ascension of Jesus to his Father! Was that separation deeply traumatic for those remaining on terra firma just forty days after the death and resurrection of Jesus? Was that the same emotional trauma experienced by the wives and families in early April 1982, standing on the quayside in Portsmouth harbour watching their husbands, brothers, the fathers of young children setting sail to engage in armed conflict in the South Atlantic? [or any theatre of war]. Was the love the apostles felt for Jesus as strong and painful as the love that was demonstrated among the mothers, wives, sisters, girlfriends who stood on the quayside weeping, and at the same time waving goodbye to their menfolk, wondering if they would ever see them again? Had they kissed, or hugged, or held hands for the last time, and if by divine providence their menfolk did survive, when would they see them again? What is fairly certain, is that in the Southern Hemisphere emotions must have been just as intense.
These are human and emotional questions, and in his humanity, Jesus understood the psychological effect that his separation from the apostles would have on his chosen ones; the same psychological affect that the separation of those heading south on the Task Force had on those left weeping on Portsmouth quayside.
What did Jesus do? He prayed to his Father to protect the disciples he loved! What did the families left of the quayside do? They prayed to God, some not in words perhaps, but all prayed in hope for a safe homecoming. They prayed for those they loved, for their safety and freedom from pain and disfigurement.
Jesus prayed to his Father in these words, “keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us.” Jesus prayed for unity and filial love. Jesus was concerned for the safety of his disciples. The disciples were to remain on this earth, and therefore subject to the temptations that this world had to offer. As he said to his Father, ‘I have looked after them while I was with them, except for the one who chose to be lost, but I want you to look after them, to protect them, particularly from the clutches of the evil one. I want you to consecrate them, to make them holy, to dedicate your life to them!
What a request! It demonstrates the depth of love Jesus has for his disciples, added to which the depth of love Jesus has for all humanity. The weakness of humanity is demonstrated in the conflicts that proliferate in this world. The root causes of these conflicts, and the root causes of so many distressing situations humanity endures are man-made and not natural disasters. Civil strife is as endemic in the so-called ‘free world’ as it is in the ‘not-so-free’. The hot-spots of conflict are reported and recorded in every news bulletin, and in every conflict, people are praying to God. Jesus’ prayers to his Father are replicated probably every minute of the day in one part of the world or another. Are they answered? I think they are, because when we pray for people, whether in a domestic situation or an international one, it can generate a call to action, and whether that action is demonstrated in financial support, practical support or prayer, it unifies humanity in filial love.
Jesus said to his Father: ‘As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth.’
We pray that we may always seek the truth.