7th Sunday of Easter 2019
Acts 7:55-60; Rev 22:12-20; Jn 17:20-26
Our Gospel today forms part of what is commonly known as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, and because of its setting in the context of the Last Supper, it may be regarded as His Last Will and Testament. In this prayer, Jesus commends His disciples to the Father: those disciples who were with Him at table, but also those millions of disciples who would join Him at table throughout the ages, including you and me. So this prayer is a prayer for us, something which we must bear in mind as we reflect upon it.
In case we should doubt that, Our Lord spells it out. “Holy Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who, through their words, will believe in me.” So what is the prayer of God the Son for us?
His prayer is that we should be one, not only with each other but with the Father and the Son. So we are to be united with the Father and the Son, an awesome thought if ever there was one, and also with our fellow disciples in a unity so deep that it replicates the unity within the Holy Trinity.
Ponder that for a moment. The unity between Father and Son is so complete that it generates the Holy Spirit. Our unity with God is to be as intense as that. How are we to achieve it? Clearly, WE are not: this is God’s work. All that we can do is to be open to being drawn into that unity.
Likewise, we are to be drawn into an equal unity with one another. Once again, that is going to have to be God’s work, a work which demands openness and prayer on our part. And bear in mind that unity, like charity and measles, begins at home. Unity for us must begin in God and be manifested among the people with whom we live, whether that be community, family, or whatever.
What does unity mean? It has become a cliché that unity does not mean uniformity, but even clichés are an expression of an underlying truth. We are not called to become Stepford Wives, gliding robotically and harmoniously through life, wearing fixed smiles and waiting for the explosion which will reveal our unreality.
We are individuals, with different characters, different opinions, different approaches. Genuine unity will not eradicate these differences, but will entail their contributing to, and enriching, the group.
At the root of this must be charity, the love poured into us by that Trinity with whom each of us must first be in unity. This may seem to be a statement of the obvious, yet if we are honest we will have to admit that it has not always been the case. Any diocesan priest can relate tales, whether at first or second hand, of “curate-breaker” parish priests, who apparently set out to damage if not destroy their assistant priests: many religious sisters will know of harshness, if not downright cruelty, within convents. My late primary school headmistress, a member of a teaching order, once told me ruefully of the difficult character of the Reverend Mother of those days, whom we, as children, had been taught by that same headmistress to regard with awe.
So do you and I contribute to unity within our immediate circle? That question presupposes an even more fundamental query: are we driven by love, a love infused by the Trinity, who dwell within us, with whom we dwell in unity? If that unity with, and indwelling of, the Holy Trinity is not the driving force of our lives, then our desire for unity with one another will be hamstrung from the start. Unity without the love of God will be a pretence, a cold charade.
Our Lord underlines this at the end of His prayer, asking that “the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them.” Thus love may give rise to unity, beginning at home, but spreading throughout the Church, throughout the body of Christians, and throughout the world.