It’s the night of the last supper before Jesus was arrested. He just shared a meal with his disciples & washed their feet; he gave them a new commandment & told them he was leaving them. Today we overhear a prayer to his Father. He’s praying for us! Three times he asked his Father that we would all be one as he & his Father are one. He prayed for you & me reading this right now. He’s not only praying for his people then & there, but for everyone who will learn of him, who will hear about him from them. He prays that we might all be connected like he’s connected to God. This is a vision of unity in the church where we know God because we recognize Jesus & we know each other because we all know Jesus.
It’s too bad this unity hasn’t happened yet. Even St Paul was in trouble for believing in the resurrection, for hoping in it! And there was division among them which saved Paul from being torn to pieces by a confused & angry crowd. The Lord came to him & told him to keep bearing witness, to keep trying to bring unity.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Justin Martyr who was a theologian in the early church. He was a pagan until he heard about Jesus & discovered reason with faith. When he was questioned & asked to give up the meeting places of the Christians, he answered that Christians don’t have a single meeting place, but they meet anywhere because the true God is everywhere.
If Jesus prayed for our oneness, then he also recognized & rejected the differences that divide us. There are divisions within ourselves, our families, our churches, our nation. We live in a world full of divisions – male or female; rich or poor; gay or straight; Christian or Muslim; conservative or liberal; young or old. We can go on & on listing all the boundaries we encounter in this life. They’re not just divisions, though; but they’ve become oppositions. They exist not only out there in the world but in the human heart. We project onto our world everything that’s fragmented. Boundaries & differences are not about issues. They’re about real people, people with names, families, joys & needs just like us. We sometimes forget this because it’s easier to deal with issues than with real people! We deal with these differences that divide us by written agreements nowadays, treaties & legislation that govern how we’ll get along with each other & behave in the midst of our differences.
But that’s not Jesus’ prayer! He doesn’t pray for our tolerance or for getting along or for us to be nice to each other. He doesn’t even pray that our differences go away & disappear. Instead, he prays for oneness; that we would be one as he & the Father are one so that our oneness would be the revelation of God’s presence to the world. Oneness in the midst of difference becomes a sacramental presence of God’s life in the world. And so, He prayed that we would be & live like God!
St Justin Martyr preached that our oneness is not about eliminating our differences…it’s about love. Love is the only thing that can ever overcome division. Our love for God, our neighbors, ourselves & those who mean us harm reveals our oneness, & the measure of our oneness, our Godliness, is love. In love, there may be many differences…but there’s no division! God’s love knows no boundaries. If we think for a second that God loves Jesus more than anyone else/us, then, we’ve missed the Gospel. God loves you the same as he loves Jesus.
For too long, we’ve dealt with each other’s differences “my way”. My way or the highway! You can see where that’s gotten all of us. All you need to do is take a look at the world, read a newspaper or watch the news. When we deal with others & our divisions, we like to call each other names, we use labels, we get mad & violent & we hunker down to defend & don’t budge. There’s no humility there, no oneness in that! Jesus is praying today that we’ll be the ones to answer this prayer. We answer his prayer every time we choose how to love, who to love, where to love.
For God so loved the world that he gave us his only son. And his Son so loved all of us that he gave us His Father, each other & a hope in the Resurrection.