Although the Church at large celebrated the great feast of the Ascension of the Lord this past Sunday, I found myself that morning reading the Mass readings for the 7th Sunday of Easter. Those details don’t mean much to you unless you’re familiar with the Catholic liturgical calendar. My point is that before anyone else in the house woke up on Sunday, I tucked myself into the corner of the couch and read through a selection from the Gospel of John, chapter 17. How many times have I read or listened to that chapter? How many times have I contemplated or studied that marvelous prayer of Christ in the hours before His arrest? Dozens, at least. Yet never has my attention been caught by what snatched it up this past Sunday morning.
“Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am, they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)
I didn’t skip over this verse in all the other instances. Even so, I felt like I was reading the initial statement of the verse for the very first time. “Father, they are your gift to me.” At this point in the prayer, Jesus is praying for all the believers in Him who would come down the road of time. The ones who would come to faith through the evangelization of the Church, who would be brought into the fold for however many generations will come and go until the end of the age. He was praying for you and me.
It’s possible that I was especially in need of this message in that particular hour of that particular day and that’s why it stood out to me. The words continue to ring in my ears since then though. “They are your gift to me.” The Lord, Most High considers me a gift to Him. He desires that I be with Him, in His presence, enjoying His everlasting glory. Me. You. A gift to Him. The notion soaks into me like the warmest sunshine.
Pride shooed away for a moment, we can all admit in our hearts that we long to be treasured… to be loved so exquisitely and unconditionally that the lover desires that we always be with them, near them, sharing in their lives. The lover’s own joy is multiplied because we are theirs. Their glory, so to speak, is magnified by our presence.
Turns out, we are loved exactly so.