That We May Be One
“Holy Father, keep in your name those you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. . . . I pray not only for these [the Apostles], 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. . . that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me. . . .I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them." (Verses from John 17:11-26)
Today’s Gospel is from Jesus's farewell address at His last supper with His apostles. The address concludes with what is often referred to as Our Lord's "Priestly Prayer," quoted above.
Note that the Lord is not addressing the apostles here: He is praying to the Father. Thanks to John the Evangelist, we, along with the Apostles, overhear Him pray that we may be one just as He and the Father are one: that each of us and the entire Church may be enfolded into the divine mutuality, intimacy and reciprocity of Trinitarian love.
Think of it: this prayer asks that we fully participate in the mutual indwelling between the Father and His Son. I like to think this prayer asks that God’s own love be poured into our hearts, carrying with it the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Divine Love: joy, peace, patience, and kindness; the power to see the goodness in ourselves, others and all creation; fidelity, gentleness and will-power; wisdom and understanding; courage and piety, together with wonder and awe before the power and love of God.
This love moves us to the heart of God’s identity. From Apostolic times right up to the present, the Spirit breathes life-giving love into each of us and the Community of the entire Church. On account of this, we are the locus of God's divine love in the world, just as the Incarnate Word was its locus in the ultimate enactment of that love by the gift of his life from the cross.
Another consolation to notice: in His prayer, Jesus entrusts our future to the Father. It is a striking move. Instead of entrusting the Church’s future to itself, Jesus entrusts it to God. The Lord's Priestly prayer is not a last-minute instruction about what we should do in Jesus's absence: His words turn our future over to God our Father. This covenant abides right into eternity.
Our gospel today is an occasion for all of us, the faithful and our leadership, to remember, recognize and realize with full attention that we are, in this moment, personally and all at once, united in the love of Christ. This is what constitutes our union of hearts and minds in His Mystical Body. It is the meaning and power of our identity as Christians. We are His Church. We are His community. We are His people.
Our Lord sends us into the world to live out this divine love. We are called to do all we can to guide those we encounter into the fullness of God’s own Kingdom of love. We are missioned to do so not in the abstract, but tangibly, palpably, and visibly – in our homes, our neighborhoods, and the actual places and circumstances where we live and move and have our being: that the world may be one, even as the Father and the Son are one. This is what it means to be a Christian.
By Kevin Kersten