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THE DIVINE PLAN FOR THE SALVATION OF ALL MEN

07 Apr

THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: JESUS’ LAST DISCOURSE

“Toward the close of the Last Supper there took place the famous last discourse of Jesus to His Apostles before His death. The discourse is both tender and mysterious. Jesus seems to be trying to lead His Apostles to a deeper understanding of the spiritual life which He has come to give them. He has foreseen and has foretold to them their desertion of Him in His hour of trial. He offers them words of consolation and of hope. But the hope is based on the acceptance of profound doctrines on the essence of God and on the divine plan for the redemption of man.

‘LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED’

Jesus begins with a word of consolation: ‘Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house there are many mansions. Were it not so, I should have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and I will take you to Myself; that where I am, there you also may be. And where I go you know, and the way you know’ (John 14:1-4).

HE WHO SEES JESUS SEES ALSO THE FATHER

The Apostles did not understand Jesus. Thomas objected, ‘Lord, we do not know where thou art going, and how can we know the way?’ (John 14:5). Jesus replied, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would also have known My Father. And henceforth you do know Him, and you have seen him’ (John 14:6-7).

THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE

Again Thomas is mystified and he asks to be shown the Father. Jesus replies that he who sees Jesus sees also the Father. Then Jesus repeats what He had said on a previous occasion; He and the Father are one. While being distinct Persons, they are nevertheless both God, the one true God. Hence he who sees Jesus sees also the Father, for the Father is in His Son and the Son is in His Father.

JESUS TELLS THEM THAT THIS DOCTRINE IS A DIVINE REVELATION

Jesus then tells them that this doctrine is a divine revelation from the Father, a revelation guaranteed by the wondrous works, the miracles which the Father works through Jesus. If the Apostles will believe in Jesus because of these works, then they themselves will perform even more wondrous things, so that the Father may be glorified in Jesus.

‘IF YOU LOVE ME KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS’

Following this promise Jesus makes an even greater, though more mysterious promise. ‘If you love Me,’ He says, ‘keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you shall know Him because He will dwell with you, and be in you’ (John 14:15-17).

THE HOLY SPIRIT

Jesus returns several times throughout His discourse to this theme of the ‘Advocate,’ the ‘Spirit’ whom He and the Father will send to the Apostles. ‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you’ (John 14:26). ‘But when the Advocate has come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me’ (John 15:26). ‘It is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he has come he will convict the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of justice, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; and of judgment, because the prince of this world has already been judged. Many things yet I have to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will teach you all the truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he will hear he will speak, and the things that are to come he will declare to you. He will glorify me, because he will receive of what is mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are mine. That is why I have said that he will receive of what is mine and declare it to you’ (John 16:7-15).

FULL OF MYSTERY

The words of Jesus are full of mystery. The ‘Advocate,’ the ‘Holy Spirit’ of whom He speaks is evidently a Person distinct from the Father and from Himself, for the Father and the Son send Him to the Apostles. Moreover Jesus must depart and go to the Father in order to send the ‘Advocate’ to the Apostles.

THE SPIRIT OF LOVE AND TRUTH

The ‘Holy Spirit’ is the Spirit of truth. He will teach the Apostles all things, reminding the Apostles of all that Jesus Himself has taught them, and even revealing to them the things that are to come. He will glorify Jesus, the Son of God, because the things which He will speak He will have received from Jesus, Who received them from His Father.

THE CENTRAL MYSTERY OF THE GODHEAD

The Holy Spirit is a Person distinct from Jesus and from His Father. At this moment Jesus does not make it clear just Who this Person is. But, after His resurrection, when commissioning the Apostles to make disciples of all nations, Jesus commands them to baptise men ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19).

Here the Spirit is put on a par with the Father and the Son. He is, therefore, God, just as the Father and the Son are God. At the Last Supper, then, Jesus is speaking to the Apostles of the great central mystery of the Godhead: the one true God is three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, all three Persons equally God. The Son has received the Godhead from the Father, for all the things which the Father has are the Son’s. Since the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 15:26), and since He has received from the Son all the things which the Father has (John 16:14-15), it follows that He has received the Godhead from both the Father and the Son.

JESUS’ INTRODUCTION TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

In these mysterious words Jesus introduces the Apostles to the profound doctrine of the Most Blessed Trinity. The doctrine, rather the revelation of this truth about the mysterious depths of the inner life of God, is indeed a great gift to men. If it is a great good to know even the least grain of truth about God, surely it is a magnificent privilege to know the secret of the inner Trinitarian life of God.

A MAGNIFICENT PRIVILEGE

But in the context of the last discourse Jesus does not insist on the intellectual benefits of a knowledge of the existence of the Trinity. Rather He offers the knowledge of the Trinity as a means of consolation and encouragement. Even though Jesus Himself is to leave the Apostles and return to His Father, His going will not leave the Apostles orphans, for if they love Jesus and keep His commandments, the Father and the Son will come to them invisible and dwell in them. Moreover the Holy Spirit will also come to them and ‘be’ in them (John 14:17 and 23).

The Apostles, therefore, are not to be ‘troubled’ or ‘afraid’ or ‘scandalised’ (John 14:27 and John 16:1). Jesus will leave them for a time, not only at His death but even at the time of His ascension to His Father. His followers will be hated and persecuted by the world, even as Jesus Himself was (John 15:18-25).

Nevertheless Jesus will leave to His Apostles ‘peace,’ not the kind of ‘peace’ which the world can give but a true peace, a peace of soul founded on the presence of the Trinity in themselves. Even though Jesus will have left them for a time, they will have the testimony of the Spirit of truth Who will glorify Jesus. The world will persecute the Apostles, even kill them in the name of God. But they will give their own testimony to Jesus, for the Spirit will testify through them. They need not fear or be troubled, for the victory – a victory in the spiritual order, the order of eternal truth – is already won. The devil, the prince of this world, is already judged (John 16:10). He has already lost the struggle against God for the souls of men. His actions against Jesus Himself, which are soon to lead to the death of Jesus on the Cross, can only make known the great love which Jesus has for His Father. ‘But he (the prince of this world) comes that the world may know that I love the Father, and that I do as the Father has commanded me’ (John 14:31).

INNER AND OUTER PEACE OF SOUL FOUNDED ON THE PRESENCE OF THE TRINITY

These words are consoling, not only because they reveal the Trinity to mankind but also because they make clear the divine plan for the salvation of men. Because of sin – the sins of men and angels – the devil is the ‘prince of this world,’ ruling men to their destruction. But God the Father sends God the Son to save men. He accomplishes this by laying down His life – His human life – for men. The devil, and men led by the devil, will bring about the death of Jesus; but, in so doing, they will be unconsciously bringing to fruition the plan of God, for the death of Jesus will mean the salvation of men, those men who become the disciples of Jesus. And thus will the Father be glorified. ‘In this is my Father glorified, that you may bear very much fruit, and become my disciples’ (John 15:8).

THE NEED TO BEAR MUCH FRUIT TO QUALIFY AS A GENUINE FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST

Men will be led back to God, back to the Father through union with Jesus. ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he will take away; and every branch that bears fruit he will cleanse, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn. If you abide in me, and if my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done to you. In this is my Father glorified, that you may bear very much fruit, and become my disciples’ (John 15:1-8).

STRENGTHENING THE FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE

This union with Jesus will be the work of the Holy Spirit, Who will come to give testimony to Jesus. Jesus Himself will return to His Father and send the Holy Spirit to do this work.

These details of the divine plan to save men Jesus reveals to the Apostles at the Last Supper. He does so in order to console them and strengthen them in their faith in Himself. ‘These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have affliction. But take courage, I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

‘I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD’

Since union with Jesus is the means of salvation, it is most fitting that Jesus concludes His last discourse to the Apostles with a prayer to His Father, a prayer whose chief request is for the establishment of this union of men with Jesus.

JESUS PRAYS FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UNION OF MEN WITH HIM

Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come! Glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee, even as thou hast given him power over all flesh, in order that to all thou hast given him he may give everlasting life. Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ’ (John 17:1-3).

JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS APOSTLES

Then Jesus prayed for His Apostles: ‘I pray for them; not for the world do I pray, but for those whom thou hast given me, because they are thine; and all things that are mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep in thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one even as we are. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou hast given me I guarded, and not one of them perished except the son of perdition, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled’ (John 17:9-12).

LASTLY JESUS PRAYED FOR ALL THOSE WHO WOULD COME TO BELIEVE IN HIM THROUGH THE PREACHING OF THE APOSTLES

Lastly Jesus prayed for all those who would come to believe in Him through the preaching of the Apostles. ‘Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me, that all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory that thou hast given me, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and thou in me; that they may be perfected in unity, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and that thou hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given may be with me; in order that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. Just Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have made known to them thy name, and will make it known, in order that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them’ (John 17:20-26).

THE CONCLUSION OF THE LAST SUPPER

At the conclusion of this prayer for the union of men with God through Jesus, the Apostles and Jesus concluded the Last Supper with a hymn. Then Jesus and the Apostles left the upper room where they had celebrated the Pasch.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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