Divisions have existed between individuals, communities and nations since Adam and Eve were banished from Paradise, once they turned against God. Unfortunately, this is what happens when we think we are like “gods” and know exactly how all people are to live and believe. This attitude creates Divisions that give way to violence and war, as enemies become firmly entrenched in their perspective ideology.
We are a horribly divided country, a reality that is fueled by social media. So much of what is purportedly “news” wants us divided because it sells... it creates viewers and subscribers. Our Christianity is just as divided, and has been, since Jesus rose from the dead and ascended back to his Father. Questions plague and haunt the Christian community: how is Jesus human and divine?
Does he proceed from the Father and the Spirit or just from the Father? How is authority exercised in the church? How are the Scriptures to be interpreted? Should there be Sacraments beyond Baptism? Who can be ordained to the priesthood? Is it idolatrous to pray to saints? How does God's gift of Grace work? I could fill pages with the questions that seem to divide. Actually, it is the answers to the questions that divide.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is praying to the Father just before his death that the disciples remain one as he is one with the Father. Unity. This word speaks of what Jesus not only prayed for, but why he gave his life for us. The paschal mystery unites all humanity in a way known only to God. And Every human being is a part of this Mystery of love and sacrifice. God wants us ALL to be saved and only God saves. God’s way of saving is so much larger than we can even begin to imagine. We are only the instruments of this salvation, but we Christians succumb to the ancient sin to want to BE God and become the final arbiters of who’s in and who’s out. All churches suffer from this nagging tendency to want the power to exclude.
And so we pray for unity among the followers of Jesus. The more we set aside what divides and focus on what unites, the stronger and more believable the gospel will be to those who hear it for the first time. Somehow, all the world's religions have a part in this gradual synergy of coming together. The truths that unite will give birth to a new vision of humanity and our relationship with the one we call God. Of course, the truth of the Trinity and paschal Mystery can never be compromised. Jesus is the cornerstone of the unity that is slowly , sometimes painfully, unfolding.
But let’s surrender our egos and assertions to the Spirit, who will bring us together in so many surprising ways. Let us actually study and learn about how people believe differently. Dialogue. May we Come together to bring justice to the poor and excluded, something we all can agree on. Sitting down and eating a great meal together is the one ordinary “ritual” that unites quite powerfully.
Jesus wants us united not divided. May we Catholic’s pray that this unity comes about, by acting on our prayer. Without concrete steps and actions, the prayer will get us nowhere.