I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in me. May they all be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you. May they be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
I have given them the glory you have given me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that you have sent me, and that I have loved them, just as you loved me.
Father, since you have given them to me, I want them to be with me where I am, and see the glory you gave me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. As I revealed your name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I also may be in them.”
The background of today’s first reading is this. For many long centuries in Israel there was no belief in a real and positive afterlife, in a Heaven of bliss in God’s company. The Jews were convinced that after death everybody went down to the Sheol, a dark and gloomy place situated in the middle of the earth. This belief is all the more surprising that, living more than 400 years in Egypt, they were exposed to the Egyptians’ belief in an afterlife lived with the gods and which was a pleasant continuation of the present life. Perhaps the Jews resisted these beliefs precisely because they were pagan beliefs…
At any rate this rejection of a happy afterlife continued until the 2nd century B.C., when the death of many martyrs convinced Daniel (12:1-3) and others (2 Mac 12:38-46) that these martyrs deserved to live with God forever. But at the time of Jesus the more conservative Jews (the Sadducees) who accepted only the Pentateuch as Scripture, still rejected the idea of a blissful afterlife. And Paul, as we see in today’s first reading, astutely uses this doctrinal rift between Pharisees and Sadducees to save himself from prison.
To know that a happy afterlife awaits us is one of our greatest blessings indeed.
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