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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter, we have the solemn prayer addressed to His heavenly Father, by our Lord when about to enter on His Sacred Passion. 1st. For Himself, to receive due glory in compensation for His humiliations, and in return for the glory He had given His Father (1–5). 2ndly. For His disciples, to obtain for them perseverance in faith, preservation from evil, and sanctification in truth (6–19). 3rdly. For the faithful, who are to receive the faith through the preaching of the Apostles (20). Finally, He prays for all together; He asks for the entire Church, the gift of perfect union among themselves, similar to the union existing among the Persons of the Adorable Trinity, and the ineffable blessings of eternal happiness (21–26).


1. “These things Jesus spoke,” viz., the discourse contained in the preceding chapters. The following sublime prayer—the longest, as far as the Gospel records them, uttered by our Lord—derives additional interest from the solemn circumstances, in which it was delivered. Jesus, on the eve of His death, commends His disciples, towards whom He was after expressing His love and tenderest affection, to the protection of His heavenly Father, showing us by His example, as St. Thomas remarks, that we should aid by our prayers those, whom we instruct by word. It was uttered, according to some, before leaving the supper hall; according to others, in the open air, on their way to Gethsemane.

“And lifting up His eyes to heaven.” Our Lord in this ordinary attitude of prayer, wishes, as our teacher, to show us, that in circumstances of difficulty and trial, our entire confidence is to be placed in God, from whom alone can we hope for strength to overcome our enemies.

“Father.” Every word is emphatic. As man, and as Man-God, He appeals to that Father, of whom He was eternally begotten, and who proclaimed, that in His beloved Son, He was always well pleased. What could such a Father refuse to such a Son?

“The hour is come,” the long expected time of trial and conflict, when handed over to the fury of My enemies and calumniators, the glory of My Divinity shall be clouded, and I most need help and grace.

“Glorify Thy Son.” Make manifest the glory of My name, now that I am to be branded as an impostor and malefactor, so that the world may acknowledge Me, owing to the wonders Thou shalt work in my favour, as Thy Eternal Son, and believing in Me, may be justified and saved.

These wonders took place at His death, and forced men to exclaim, “Truly, this is the Son of God.”

“That thy Son may glorify Thee.” I ask for this glorious manifestation of My name, as Thy Eternal Son, not so much on My own account, as for your honour; that it may redound to Thy glory, by displaying Thy Infinite Justice, Mercy, Wisdom and Omnipotence, who art the great Author and original source of all good. The spread of the Gospel and the conversion of a sinful world, would redound to the glory of God.

2. “Since Thou hast granted power over all flesh,” all mankind, without exception, without distinction of Jew or Gentile.

“Given Him,” as God, in His birth from eternity, at His Incarnation, and in the glory of His Resurrection, “Ego hodie genui te” (Psa.), “Postula a me et dabo tibi gentes hereditatem tuam,” etc., and hast, therefore, given Him the power of vivifying all men; it is but meet that He to whom such power was given, should grant to all who believe in Him, life everlasting. Our Lord, so far as He was concerned, has provided the necessary means of salvation for all men. To the elect, He has offered efficacious graces; to all, sufficient graces.

3. “Now this is eternal life.” This is the source of eternal life, the road, the means to it. The effect, “eternal life,” is put for its cause, viz., “that they” (men), “may know Thee,” by faith, “the only true God,” as Him, who is the only true God, with whom are united the Son and the Holy Ghost, who equally participate in the same Divine nature of the true Godhead. “Only,” is not the subject, but the attribute of the proposition affecting “thee,” as its attribute, as is clear from the Greek, σε τον μονον αληθινον Θεον. It, therefore, excludes false gods and idols only; but not the other Divine persons, who partake equally of the same Divine nature.

“Eternal life.” For obtaining eternal life, this is the foundation. However, it alone will not secure eternal life; other things are indispensable, viz., hope, love of God, and in general, the observance of the commandments.

“And Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,” may know that Jesus, whom “Thou hast sent, is the Christ,” the promised Redeemer of the world, who, by His merits, bestows eternal life.

Some Expositors connect these latter words with the preceding, so as to make them with the word, “thee,” the subject of the proposition, and explain them, thus: “This is true life, that they may know Thee, and Him whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ, to be the only true God.” The Greek will admit of this construction, and is regarded by many, as probable. This is the idea conveyed by St. John (1 John 5:20). Our Lord exhibits Himself in the entire context, as the Son of God. He emphatically asserts His own Divinity in propounding the Divinity of the Father; and declares, in the most explicit way, the necessity of believing in Him, not only as the consubstantial Son of the Father; but also, as Man-God, who assumed human nature for the redemption of mankind.

In this passage, it is conveyed that two things are indispensable for eternal life, viz., the knowledge of the one true God, in which is included a knowledge of and firm belief in the adorable Mystery of the Trinity; and of Jesus Christ as our Mediator and Redeemer of mankind, or, a firm belief in the Mystery of the Incarnation.

Our Redeemer omits all mention of the Holy Ghost, His object here being, to inculcate faith in Himself as God, the only begotten Son of God, God-Man. This was the foundation of faith, and once believed, the faith in the Holy Ghost followed, as a matter of course; since, He had declared that the Holy Spirit proceeded from Himself, and was to be sent by Him.

4. “I have glorified Thee on earth,” by My life, teaching and preaching; by manifesting Thy goodness and justice in My Passion soon at hand.

“I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.” He refers to His Passion near at hand, as if it were accomplished and had occurred, on account of the certainty of its accomplishment, as also to the preaching of the Gospel through His Apostles. This is the work which His Father gave Him to do, when He sent Him, as His legate, into this world, by investing Him with human nature.

5. “And, now, Father,” since I have accomplished the end of My mission, humbling Myself for the love of Thee, and subjecting Myself to the ignominy of the cross, and glorified Thee on earth, do Thou glorify Me in heaven, “with Thyself” in Thy heavenly kingdom, by bestowing on My humanity, in My glorious Resurrection, and in My being placed at Thy right hand, a share in that glory—of course, in a limited, but supereminent degree—which I had from eternity in My Divine nature, as My innate, essential right, as God. Make the world see, that I am Thy Eternal Son, God as well as Man, by communicating to My glorified humanity, at Thy right hand, the fullest participation—of course, in a finite degree—in that glory which I had in the unity of the Divine nature, from eternity. This glory was, to some extent, obscured and laid aside externally in His humbly assuming human nature and in His sufferings. He now prays for its resumption. God heard His prayer by compensating Him for His humiliations and sufferings afterwards (Philip. 2:9) in the glorious name, above every other name, which He gave Him.

“Which I had with Thee before the world was.” This clearly shows the pre-existence of Christ. He existed “before the world was,” or before any thing else created existed, He was from eternity.

6. This is the work which I have accomplished, viz., “I have manifested Thy name,” made Thee known as the Eternal Father, in Thy relations with the Son, whom Thou hast begotten, consubstantial with Thee, and sent in human flesh into the world, and the Holy Ghost proceeding from us both, a Blessed Trinity of Persons in the one nature of God.

“To the men whom Thou hast given Me,” viz., the Apostles and faithful followers, whom Thou hast chosen out of the sinful, condemned mass of mankind, preventing them by Thy sweet consolations, enabling them by actual and co-operating graces to embrace Thy faith, and devote themselves entirely to Thy service.

“Thine they were,” as well by eternal election, and creation as by several other titles, to be disposed of according to Thy Sovereign will. “And to Me,” as man and Redeemer, “Thou hast given them.” Thy grace has not been given to them in vain. “They have kept,” by the faithful observance of its precepts, “Thy Word,” which I have preached to them.

7. “Now,” believing in Me, “they have known that all things,” etc., that all My words and works have proceeded from Thee, as their Divine principle, and not, as My enemies maliciously assert, from the power of demons. In a word, they know, that I am from Thee, and all My works are Divine. All His Divine perfections were communicated to Him by the Father with the Divine essence, in His eternal generation. All His human perfections from the Father and the Holy Ghost; but attributed to the Father, as the great fountain of the Divinity.

8. They have known, that I have come from Thee, for this reason; “because the words,” or doctrine, “which Thou gavest Me,” in order to be communicated to them, “I have given to them”—clearly announcing it as it emanated from Thee, “and they,” on their part, “have received them,” with docility and obedience. “And”—consequently—“have known in very deed that I came out from Thee,” in My Divine nature, by an eternal generation. “And they have believed, that Thou hast sent Me,” in My Incarnation, into this world, assuming human nature for the redemption of the entire human race. In a word, they know Me to be true God and true man, one of the chief foundations of all Christian faith.

All that our Lord says, from verse 6 to 16, directly regards the Apostles, but indirectly, the body of the faithful and the entire Church, at all times, which was to be built on the Apostles, as its foundation.

Our Lord commends the faith and devotedness of His Apostles, in order the more securely to obtain the effects of the petition He is now about to pour forth for them.

9. “I pray for them”—what it is He prays for them is mentioned verse 11—“keep them in Thy name.” “I pray not for the world,” viz., those who, following their concupiscences so much indulged in the world—the votaries of this world, who, owing to their resistance to grace, become reprobate. Our Lord does not say, absolutely He prays not for such; since, He prayed for His very enemies, “dimitte, nesciunt, quid faciunt.” He provides sufficient graces for all, instituted His sacraments for all, died for all, wishes all to be saved. He does not pray for them here, on this occasion. His prayer here is specially for His Apostles. It is a farewell prayer, and its object is “to keep them in His name” (verse 11), which could not apply to the reprobate, for whom He prays, elsewhere.

“But for them whom Thou hast given Me,” to be specially My followers. This prayer is intended for them also.

“Because they are Thine.” This is a motive for confidence in the efficacy of His prayer, and for commending them to His Father. It is but congruous that His Father should have special care of those who are His own, by gracious choice and election.

10. He explains parenthetically, how they belong to the Father, Although given by Him to the Son. The Father does not lose His right over them. For, all things belonging to the Son, belong to the Father. All things the Father gave Him either in His eternal or temporal birth, belong still to the Father, on account of the unity and identity of nature, and all Divine perfections in both, in common with the Holy Ghost. And they belong to the Son; because given by the Father, whose right or claim does not cease, owing to this concession; but, remains still the same, as before.

“And I am glorified in them,” as they believe in My Divine Sonship and identity with the Father, whose glory is also promoted in Mine. Some understand, “am glorified,” in a future sense, “shall be glorified,” by their zeal in spreading the Gospel, and by their labours and death. Hence, another ground for confidence of obtaining His request. He assigns a twofold reason for praying; viz., because they are Thine; and because I am glorified in them by faith and obedience. Here, our Lord clearly declares Himself to be consubstantial with the Father. His words would be blasphemous, were it otherwise, or were He not so.

11. He gives a reason for praying fervently now, especially for His disciples. “Now I am not in the world.” I am shortly to leave this earth and withdraw My visible presence, “and these are in the world.” These remain after Me, exposed to all the dangers, temptations, and persecutions, cast in their way by a perverse world, without the aid of My personal advice and protection. “because I come to Thee.” I return to Thee by My death and Resurrection. I, therefore, specially commend them to Thee.

“Holy Father.” He calls Him “holy,” as He was the fountain of holiness and sanctity, which He prayed for on behalf of His disciples.

“Keep them in Thy name,” which some interpret, by Thy gract and power, preserve them in My love and service. Others, keep them in the confession of Thy name and truth. Others, keep them in Thy grace, for the honour of Thy name.

“Whom Thou hast given Me.” There is a diversity of reading in the Greek. For, “whom” (ὅυς) some read (ω) (which). The reading adopted by the Vulgate is considered preferable. It is the reading employed next verse (12).

“That they may be one,” united in love and affection, in some measure, similar to the union that essentially and inseparably exists between the Persons of the Godhead. The essential unity of the Godhead is incommunicable. What He prays for here is the most perfect supernatural union that can exist among men, modelled, in a finite and limited degree on the unity of the Divine nature, unity of intellect, or faith, unity of will, or supernatural charity, unity of subordination in the entire Church between pastors and people. This is a comparison and no more, since the unity of the Godhead is incommunicable. It is a similarity of union, in a limited degree. Man can never attain the Divine unity.

12. “While I was with them,” visibly and corporally conversing with them. In the Greek, is added “in the world.” “I kept them in Thy name,” by Thy power and authority, attached to Me as Thy Legate. I kept them in Thy service and in the confession of Thy name.

“Those whom Thou gavest Me,” as My disciples and chose followers, “have I kept” firm in Thy love and service, and preserved them from all harm, either in regard to soul or body.

“And none of them is lost” eternally, or has sustained bodily harm, “but” (except) traitorous Judas, “the son of perdition,” who is irrecoverably doomed, through his own perversity, to eternal perdition; so “that” as a consequence of his previous obstinacy and ingratitude, “the Scripture,” or Divine prediction regarding him, “may be fulfilled” (Psa. 108:8). “Dum judicatur exeat condemnatus, Episcopatum ejus accipiat alter.” This passage, St. Peter (Acts, 1:20), applies literally to Judas.

13. “And now,” leaving them, “I come to Thee.” I return to Thee, after My death and Resurrection. Deprived of My presence, instruction and personal protection, I earnestly commend them to Thee, to watch over them and specially guard them.

“And these things I speak in the world.” These words I address to Thee in their behalf, while I am yet “in the world.”

“So that they may have My joy,” which the knowledge of their union and charity causes Me, “filled in themselves.” Fully shared in by themselves, by witnessing My Resurrection, Ascension, and sending down the Holy Ghost—a subject of great joy—and also by the firm hope of hereafter following Me and participating in My joys, in My heavenly kingdom.

14. “I have given them Thy word,” preached to them Thy doctrines, meant by Thee for the world. They have faithfully attended to them (verse 8).

“And the world hath hated them, because they are not of this world,” their affections, pursuits, aims and morals are quite dissimilar. “As I am not of this world,” and hence, for a like reason, hated by them (20:18, 19).

15. “I pray not, that Thou wouldst take them out of the world,” by a holy death, and transfer them at once, to Thy kingdom. This would not be expedient, or, in accordance with Thy Providence, by which it is arranged, that they would battle with the world, suffer persecution, and thus spread the Gospel, and by the exhibition of Christian virtues, and by bravely enduring death for Thy sake, promote the glory of Thy name.

But that “Thou wouldst keep them,” whilst conversing in the world, “from evil,” by which some understand the evil one, the devil, the prince of this world. Others, understand it of evil in general, especially sin, and departure from the true faith.

16. He repeats what He said in verse 14, as a motive for obtaining the following request, as neither He nor they are of the world.

17. Therefore, “sanctify them in truth.” “Sanctify” may mean, to confirm them in sanctity and increase the sanctity they already possess; infuse into them by the Holy Ghost, perfect evangelical truth, so that, replete with sanctity and wisdom, they may become teachers of the world, breathing sanctity in every word and act.

Others, by “sanctify,” understand, to set them apart for the ministry of preaching Thy Gospel, “in truth,” in the doctrine of truth, which I delivered to them in Thy name, and which they are to teach others. “In truth,” as preachers of Thy word. For, “Thy word is truth,” without the least admixture of error. It is the true, real fulfilment of the types and empty figures of the old law. Likely, both meanings are intended, viz., that God would bestow on them an increase of interior sanctity and set them apart for His ministry.

18. “As Thou hast sent Me into the world,” to save souls by dispensing doctrine and grace; to repair and sanctify a world lost in sin.

“I also have sent them.” etc., for the same object, to be achieved by the same means. Therefore, prepare them for it, lest they fall away either on account of blandishments or the force of persecution.

19. “And for them,” in order to sanctify and consecrate them irrevocably for Thy service.

“I sanctify Myself,” consecrating and offering Myself up to God, in a few hours, as a victim of atonement on the altar of the cross, holy, pleasing in all things.

“That they also may be sanctified in truth,” that through the merits of My death, of My immolation in sacrifice, they also may be consecrated and set apart, and by advancing still more in real, internal sanctity, may be rendered fit to preach the Gospel of truth, throughout the earth, and by their evangelical labours and final sufferings, be themselves victims agreeable in Thy sight.

20. He now prays for all the believers to the end of the world.

“And not for them only,” the Apostles here present, “do I pray.” “But for them also who through their word,” and the words of truth uttered by their successors to the end of time, “shall believe in Me.” Our Lord here prays for the entire Church or the congregation of believers, to the end of time.

21. “That they all may be one.” He asks for all, for the entire Church, the same blessing of unity that He had already asked for the Apostles (v. 11). Here, He prays only for the faithful; elsewhere, as on the cross, He prays for His enemies and unbelievers (v. 9–11). “All one,” united in the bonds of faith, hope, charity concord and subordination, in a manner similar, though unequal, to the essential union of the Divine nature. The union of will and love which exists in us, “as Thou, Father, in Me,” and that this perfect union may be forwarded and accomplished by their union with us in sanctifying grace, and supernatural love of charity, which makes us, as it were, partakers of the Divine nature.

“May be one in us, as Thou,” etc. “As,” can only convey a similarity of union in some respects; but, not equality. For creatures could never attain the adorable union that exists in the Godhead. The three Persons in the Godhead are united by the same Divine nature, identical in each. We are united in an analogous or similar way, by concord and charity and subordination, which has its origin and binding power and persevering stability in God’s grace, “one in us,” and this union our Lord here prays for all the members of His Church.

“That the world,” all mankind, believers and unbelievers, “may believe;” the believers confirmed in their faith; and the unbelievers brought to embrace it, on beholding this moral miracle of supernatural union, which could come from God alone, between the faithful among themselves, as well as their union with God. “That Thou hast sent Me,” and, that My doctrine comes from Thee which was the great theme of His own preaching and that of the Apostles.

22. “The glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given,” etc. By “glory,” some understand the Divinity, which the Father gave Him in His eternal generation, and is essentially one with the nature of the Father. This glory, consisting in the most perfect union among themselves, of which creatures are capable, consisting also in their union with God, was, in a limited and analogous degree, bestowed on them, so that through His concession and grace, “they may be one, as we also are one.” Of course, there is similarity of union, but by no means equality. Others, understand “glory” of the Divinity, conferred on Him by His Father, and, in turn, communicated by Him to the Apostles and His faithful children in the adorable Eucharist, wherein He communicates with His adorable Body and Blood, etc., His Divinity also. In partaking of the Eucharist, they are one among themselves, and one with Him whom they receive, as their food; thus, becoming identified with them, as food is identified with the receiver (1 Cor. 10:16, 17); John 6:57, “remaineth in Me, and I in Him.”

23. “I in them.” By being united to Me, as members of the same body to their head, as branches to the vine, through the influx of sanctifying grace, “and thou in Me,” in some measure resembling Thy union and indwelling in Me. Or, “I in them,” by the communication of My Divinity in the Eucharist, as Thou dwellest in Me, by an essential union and identity.

“That they may be made perfect in one,” that their union of soul and will may thus reach the greatest perfection.

“And the world may know,” from their perfect concord and union, which no human means could bring about among themselves and with us, “that Thou hast sent Me,” that all My doctrines are Thine, “and hast loved them,” making them Thy adopted children and Apostles. “As Thou hast loved Me.” Communicating Thyself to them through the medium of My flesh, in a manner somewhat similar to the love Thou didst show Me, when Thou didst communicate by an eternal love, the plenitude of Thy Divinity to Me, in My eternal generation.

24. This is His last petition for His disciples and faithful followers, viz., that they may be partakers of His eternal glory in heaven.

He thus stimulates them, in view of the great glory in store for them, to the performance of heroic actions, and to patient suffering for His sake.

“I will,” I pray “that where I am,” after my Ascension, sitting at Thy right hand, “they also may be with Me,” after this mortal life, sharing in My glory.

“That they may see,” face to face, “My glory, which Thou hast given Me.” This shows that their happiness consists in seeing Him, that, aided by the light of glory—the grace of this life would not suffice—they may enjoy the beatific vision of My Divinity, “which Thou hast given Me,” in My eternal generation, and the glory of My Deified humanity, united to My Divinity.

“Because Thou hast loved Me before the creation of the world,” from eternity. This love was shown in My eternal generation; and, as the result of this eternal love, Thou hast decreed to unite in time My humanity to the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity, and render it glorious. To the same eternal love, all the saints are indebted for the graces and glory bestowed on them.

25. “Just Father,” who dost reward or punish according to men’s deserts. This would seem to be the meaning of “just,” conveying, why those only who believed in Him would be admitted to a share in His bliss; why some men were reprobated by the just judgment of God and deprived of the faith, as the deserved punishment of their pride, obstinacy and perversity.

“The world hath not known Thee,” and did not wish to know Thee, by blindly shutting their eyes against the light of truth, and refusing to hear My words. They were, therefore, justly rejected and reprobated from grace and glory.

“But I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me.” Knowing it, they have embraced Thy truth, and therefore, by Thy just judgment, admitted to a share in Thy glory.

26. “And I have made known Thy name.” Their knowledge of Thee is derived from Me. I have made known to them Thy Attributes, especially Thy love for man, Thy infinite goodness and mercy in sending Me into this world to redeem mankind.

“And will make it known,” still more, by My preaching for forty days after My Resurrection, when I shall speak to them “of the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3), and by sending them My Spirit at Pentecost, to teach them all truth, which is to be communicated to their successors, to the end of time.

“That the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me,” by bestowing on My assumed nature the most exalted gifts of grace—the result of Thy eternal love—“may be in them,” extended to them through Thy gifts of grace, and permanently secured in them. Since, “I am in them,” ever present with them, closely united to them, as the vine to its branches, as the head to the members of the body, influencing them; strengthening, supporting them in their Apostolic labours, to be ultimately rewarded with everlasting happiness.

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