"So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” John 17:21
There is a deep longing in this prayer of Jesus, one offered for his disciples as part of the Final Discourse in John’s Gospel. Signs of disunity, even among his closest followers, must have weighed heavily upon him as he moved towards the cross. As we continue to position ourselves along lines of division – by race, gender, politics, and religion, to name a few – you can almost hear a sigh emanating from the heavens. When will we get the message? This long-ago prayer for unity seems like a distant reality as we continue to duke out our differences in homes, churches, neighborhoods, and nations. Was Jesus engaged in pipe dreams?
Our faith tells us no. The quest for unity runs deep within the human spirit, implanted there by a God of infinite union. Being “one” is a defining mark of the Church. We give witness to this every time we gather for the great banquet of unity, the Eucharist. One of my favorite meditations is watching people as they walk down the aisle for Holy Communion. What a motley crew we make. This is reason for celebration. Unity, after all, does not mean sameness. Even so, none of our political leanings or personal preferences overshadows this one unifying action. We come forward in all of our diversity to one table, to partake of the one Body and Blood of Christ, to embrace the singlehearted call to oneness with God through his beloved Son.
Transformation was at the heart of Jesus’ teaching - that we would learn to see with new eyes and hear with new ears. It is a slow but steady movement towards oneness with Christ. Each time we make the journey back down the aisle after receiving communion, perhaps we’ll be a little less attached to our opinions and preferences and more open to one another. It’s a way of realizing what the Jesuit scientist and mystic, Teilhard de Chardin, described as moving towards the Omega point – the full realization of the energy of Christ’s love “…fusing all elements of creation [together] without losing their identity.”
One way to promote unity in a parish is by drawing people of all ages together. Gather in My Name events celebrate the seasons of the year with intergenerational gatherings. Find resources for hosting one in your parish as well as prayers to share in your home.