The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
May 29th, 2022 – Seventh Sunday of Easter - John 17:20-26
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Today’s gospel describes Jesus praying that all of us be one, as he and his father (God) are one. This is a wonderful goal and hopefully, we can echo that same prayer. And follow our praying with action. But what might that mean in the concrete? What should we do in a world that seems at times much more divided than united?
In my dictionary there are thirteen definitions of “one.” It’s a complicated word. Historically, the pursuit of “oneness” has mixed results. It seems that the pursuit of oneness can draw us together seeking a common good, or it can split us apart by an autocratic situation where being one only means doing what the one in charge demands.
So, the pursuit of oneness can mean many things. Thus, to avoid misunderstanding, notice that Jesus indicated the kind of oneness he prayed for. It was like the oneness that exists between him and his Father. It is a oneness rooted in their sharing a common life, a single purpose and was firmly rooted in deep mutual love.
Part of my reaction to all this is that Jesus’ prayer for unity is too idealistic. Look at today’s news. It is filled with descriptions of international warfare, civil unrest, fractured relationships and political turmoil. Historical research yields much the same picture. And right now, like many others, I am not looking forward to our future political elections which might result in more division among us, than unity between us.
Unity also seems an impossible ideal in churches and other religious groups. In the world of Catholicism, most Catholics are well aware of conflicts between bishops and other church leaders. And some inter-church and inter-religion divisions have existed for centuries. Historians speculate that many major wars have a religious conflict at their center.
Again, if discord so often wins over accord, what value can we place in the prayer of Jesus? Or equally important, how can we help achieve its goal of unity between us?
I have been around long enough to have picked up a bit of wisdom along the way. For instance, I have learned that life is not so much about reaching a destination, but more about the journey to get there. And that every journey in life begins with its first step. And then, take it one step at a time. Thus, we can interpret the prayer of Jesus for unity as an invitation to each of us to work toward that goal – one smile, one helping hand, one gesture of assistance at a time. Something we all can do.
©David M. Thomas, PhD