vv. 20-21 I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
In John's Gospel, Jesus has much to say at the "Last Supper," preparing his disciples for what is to come, not only his death, but also his coming absence. How are they to continue his message without him? The teaching goes on for three chapters (14-16), the keystone of which is the promised gift of the Holy Spirit who will "lead you into all truth." He ends this time with prayer, which constitutes chapter 17. It is sometimes called "the high priestly" prayer, because it is seen as not only a prayer in that present moment, but an eternal prayer, made constantly in the presence of God.
The crux of the prayer is contained in the words above: "that they all may be one." This is so critical for Jesus that he says it will be the primary basis for how others in the future will come to believe. They will be converted by the oneness shown by Jesus' followers.
Anyone who has ever been part of the church knows how difficult that oneness is to achieve. We are, after all, human beings who make up the church, and so many things get in the way of our being one. And, as Jesus predicted, others are often so scandalized by our internal conflicts that they stay away from us--who wants to be a part of that? It makes it all the more important that we strive with all our might to reach across our differences, constantly practice reconciliation, and, when we do disagree, do so with a great deal of humility.
And remember that Jesus is praying for us. To remember that someone is praying for you is a powerful thing. It brings strength and courage, persistence and hope.
The experience of Holy Week and Easter is one of those things that can bind us more closely together. Let it be over the next four days. And let us remember that we do not walk this way alone. Jesus is praying for us.