Where We Belong (John 17:1-11)

Seventh Sunday of Easter

We all need to belong. We need to belong somewhere, and the sense of belonging that is ours when we do truly belong brings with it a corresponding sense of peace, of happiness, of security. The need to feel that we truly belong reflects the truth that we are relational beings. We are not created to be individuals in a vacuum; we did not evolve to exist on our own in atomistic self-sufficiency. Our need for belonging springs from an awareness in our depths that we are meant to be part of a larger whole.

So when Jesus tells his disciples that they (and his disciples today) “belong” to him, this is music to the world-buffeted soul; eternal warmth to the lonely, misunderstood, or rejected. Whether we feel we belong anywhere here in this world, we always, he tells us, belong to him. In this passage in John, Jesus is praying to the Father before his arrest. These lengthy monologues in John often serve to help reveal the nature of the relationship between Christ and the Father, two Persons of the triune God. In this prayer Jesus speaks about the “belonging” of the disciples to himself and to the Father: “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word… I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (17:6, 26).

So the disciples then and now belonged first to the Father, their Creator, who has now given them into the care of the Son, who is the Logos of the Creator become human. Jesus speaks about his disciples belonging to him in many other passages in John as well — being joined to him, being one with him, and therefore being joined to the Father too, because he says to the Father that “everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine” (17:10). It means that we share in the eternal life of God; and it means that if we ask him he will work with us so that we can be transformed in our depths to become more like him; and it means that our true home is in him.

As Thomas Merton reflects, “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name” (New Seeds of Contemplation).

Jesus continues in his prayer before his arrest: “Consecrate them in truth. Your word (logos) is truth… And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth” (17:17, 19). By his holiness, we are made holy, because we belong to him. By his consecration of himself, he consecrates us, and we are freed from our own darkness, because we belong to him. By his power over death, we are freed from its power over us, and we share in his eternal life, because we belong to him. He embraces us with his encompassing, radically generous acceptance. This is what it means to belong to him who is Love.

Creator and Redeemer God, help us always remember that you are our home; that our place of eternal belonging is in you; and that your love is imprinted on all your creations forever.

Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Keck