Where I Am They Also May Be With Me, And Be One!
“May they all be one… May the love with which you loved me be in them, so that I may be in them.” There is perhaps no stronger witnessing – that the world would believe that Jesus is the one sent – than that those who believe in Christ would also be united in one love by the bond of love which is the Holy Spirit. But, the tragic reality is that, Christians are divided in many denominations and sects. Even in our Church, there are different groups, different intentions, usually people of good will and full of good intentions. We need ecumenism not only between Churches but also in our Church. Is the love with which the Father has loved Christ not in us? Christ even prays that we be where he is.
1 Reading: ACTS 22:30; 23:6-11
Wishing to determine the truth about why Paul was being accused by the Jews, the commander freed him and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene. Then he brought Paul down and made him stand before them. Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees, so he called out before the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the group became divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all three. A great uproar occurred, and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party stood up and sharply argued, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” The dispute was so serious that the commander, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, ordered his troops to go down and rescue Paul from their midst and take him into the compound. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”
Responsorial Psalm 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope. or: R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot. R.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. R.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption. R.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever. R.
Alleluia: John 17:21
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May they all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that the world may believe that you sent me, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: John 17:20-26
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
The Catholic Church became an active participant in the ecumenical movement only after Vatican II. In an earlier era, it was felt that the church could not be involved in a search for unity, because it already possessed that unity within itself. The only solution for the problem of disunity was for other Christians to convert to Catholicism. Sounds funny?
Today, there has been a dramatic shift in the position. All Christians feel the pain of disunity, which has held sway for centuries. Every Christian body has in some way contributed to division and separation. It will require a united effort for our differences to be resolved.
Today’s Gospel centers on Christ’s strong appeal for unity. Just as the Father and Son are united in an inseparable unity, Jesus prays that the same may be true of his followers. In fact, unity is a sign to the world of the Spirit’s presence in the Christian community, an apologetic sign of God’s presence in the world.
Love is the integrating force. It was love that prompted God’s intervention in the world in the mission of Jesus. A bond of love came into being in the Christian community in appreciation of what God had done in Jesus. Unity is an important sign to the world of what God has accomplished, an apologetic sign of God’s work in the lives of his disciples.
It is the integrating force of love that unites Christians as well. It is to remain as a permanent sign to the world of Christ’s continued presence, as well as a sign of the Father’s love for his Son and his disciples.
Christian unity remains an unfinished task. Steps in recent years toward healing division and overcoming separation have been welcomed in many quarters. The work for unity exists on two levels. One is theological or doctrinal. Theologians of various denominations meet periodically to seek ways to reach agreement on thorny doctrinal issues. The second level is the grass-roots response wherein people of different denominations undertake common initiatives, join in common prayer, and bury outdated stereotypes that only engender division. The latter is an ecumenism in which we can all participate. Happily, the Pope was in Romania recently where he met with the Orthodox Patriarch Daniel. In his address to a country mostly Orthodox Christians he declared “I come as a pilgrim of brotherhood.” All Christians must hear that. Disunity, we have said it earlier in the week, is a sign of the absence of the Holy Spirit.
The best witnessing that the Father sent Jesus and that we believe in him and he is alive in us is that we are one. Division and quarrels between Churches and different communities are the opposite of witnessing to Christ and his Gospel. May God’s Spirit unite you and may Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!