In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus pray not only for His disciples seated at supper with Him, but for believers throughout time:
“I pray not only for these, but also for those
who will believe in me through their word.”
This is sometimes referred to as Jesus’ “priestly prayer” because he prays for the world. As followers of Jesus, we too pray the priestly prayer when our love, concern and action encompass the entire world.
Jesus goes on to pray for unity, and the bond of this unity is the very Life of God:
“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.”
We experience God’s unity in the bonds of love we share with our friends, family, faith communities, neighborhoods, and the whole created world. And this sense of unity, this communion is a beautiful and wondrous thing when we have it. But then there are times when we experience conflict and disunity in our family, parish, or workplace. Or we turn on the news. Because our love encompasses the world, we experience a tension between the loving unity we value and the violence, culture wars, and disagreements that tear us apart.
This tension has been in Christianity from the beginning. In today’s first reading from Acts of the Apostles, we hear that the Apostle Paul is in danger of literally being “torn to pieces” in a religious dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees. Earlier this week, in Texas, little children and their teachers were “torn to pieces” by an assault weapon, and their community has been torn apart with grief.
How do we as Christians handle the tension between desiring the loving unity Jesus prays for, and the tragic realities we see and hear on the news and in our communities?
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, although not a Passionist, (he is a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate) gives the Passionist family a profound message about living with tension in the face of suffering, at the foot of the Cross:
“Jesus took away the sins of the world by holding, carrying, purifying, and transforming tension, that is, by taking in the bitterness, anger, jealousy, hatred, slander, and every other kind of thing that’s cancerous within human community, and not giving it back in kind…….Christian discipleship invites us, like Jesus, to become a “lamb of God”, a purifier, that helps take tension out of our families, communities, friendship circles, churches, and work-places by holding and transforming it rather than simply giving it back in hand.”
~~~~from Chapter # 9 “The Passion and the Cross” in “Essential Spiritual Writings”
Patty Gillis is a retired Pastoral Minister. She served on the Board of Directors at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit. She is currently a member of the Laudato Si Vision Fulfillment Team and the Passionist Solidarity Network.