In our Gospel reading, we hear the continuation of Jesus’ discourse with His disciples at the Last Supper. Here, Jesus offers a prayer to the Father, recognizing that the moment has come for God’s plan to come to fruition: “I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Jesus then prays for the disciples, and at the end of our reading, we hear Jesus say: “And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.”
In these divided times, I am drawn to that last verse: “so that they may be one just as we are.” It is not the last time in this prayer that Jesus prays for unity. I understand the prayer to be asking that the disciples be in communion with each other, as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are in communion with each other, beyond our understanding, in the Holy Trinity.
Again, in these divided times, I see the prayer also pertaining to us, that we find our way to communion with each other, with all people, and with all of creation. I don’t think unity requires absolute uniformity. As a church, we do need to be unified in our mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to share God’s love in Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. But we do it in cultural expressions and in a language that is understandable to the people we serve. We may not be free of conflicts or disagreements about how the message is shared, but we cannot give in to hatred and demonization of the “other,’ for we are called to serve them as well as those who are like us.
May the Holy Spirit guide us in resolving conflicts, and may we come together as one.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.