Jesus’ prayer to the Father at the Last Supper: “(May they) all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17: 21-23)
Jesus spoke these words as part of the Last Supper discourse, a heart-wrenching prayer to his Father. It was his final hour, and every word he spoke bore the weight of eternity. Even in this short Scripture passage, we sense the tremendous longing in the heart of Jesus for unity among his followers. The words themselves seem to tremble on the page.
It is of cosmic importance that on his last night on earth, Jesus bequeathed to his followers the inner life of the Trinity—a unity of wills in perfect love—praying “that they may be one, as we are one…so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” This is the life of heaven and we are called to live it now as a sign to the world that God sent his only Son to die out of pure love for us. We need to ponder this deeply. Sins against unity, that is unity with the will of God, cause great damage to the Church and consequently to the world.
Lately we have heard of a serious disagreement between the bishops of Germany, and the Vatican. Too often these days, the word “schism” is heard in Catholic circles. My friends, if the Church herself cannot maintain unity, what hope is there for those who do not believe in God? Unity is critical, now more than ever, a unity born in the humility of the manger.
In the Liturgy of the Hours is a reading from a letter to Diognetus which contains this line: “…it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together.” Unity with the will of God and each other is a sacred duty for Christians.
Several years ago our parish ladies group visited a Carmelite monastery in our diocese. We were blessed with a brief audience—through a grate—with the saintly prioress, Mother Teresa of Jesus (may she rest in peace). She spoke about life in a closed community. She did not sugar-coat it, emphasizing more than once the challenges of living day in and day out with “the same 10 people.” Yet, in spite of the challenges, they were a true community modeling a common unity. Did they always agree? Certainly not. Did they sometimes argue? Most likely. Were they living in unity? Absolutely! Their unity did not depend on agreement in earthly matters, but on loving obedience to the will of God in the bond of charity.
Someone once asked St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta how we can know what the will of God is in any given situation. She gave a little smile and replied, “Wait and see what happens.” That is the reply of one who lives in the fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary, always docile to the movement of the Spirit.
Those of us who try to live in the will of God know that His will is not always easy to discern. That is why it is good to have a spiritual director, or priest, or someone spiritually mature enough to help with discernment. When in doubt, we cannot err in being obedient to those God has placed over us in authority.
Unity with the Will of God is what we must aspire to at all times. This has never been easy for us, for the shadow of the evil one is never far away. He loves to sow confusion and chaos, misunderstanding and the pride of self-righteousness, a righteousness that divides and seeks to conquer. There is no peace in this approach, only division. Therefore, we need to look carefully at the attitudes we hold—and especially the ones that hold us! Let us not be slaves to them, but always act out of love for those God sends us. Let our own thoughts and feelings take a back seat to the true inspiration of the Spirit in the bond of charity. Then we will be working for peace, not division.
Never has it been more urgent that we learn to live in God’s will, to desire it above all else. It is the only way to peace and unity in families, in the Church, and in the world. God has given us many unimaginable graces in our day. We must re-double our efforts to be faithful, attentive, and docile to the Spirit. No one is safe outside of grace. Humility is key; pride will be our undoing. And when we fail, let us place all our trust in God who can, by his merciful grace, make what is bitter, sweet.
Where hearts are not at peace there can be no unity. Where hearts are not at prayer there can be no peace, for one flows out of the other. Peace has its source in the heart of God, which is perfect unity. Since prayer is communion with God, the more one prays, the more the fruits of peace and unity will flow.
We are children of light! We must not give in to the shadows. Light always dispels shadows. Let us stay firmly rooted in the truth of our faith found in the Divine Will, especially as taught to Luisa Piccareta. And in all things—charity.
ADDENDUM: Minutes after I posted this, I read this article which quotes Cardinal Robert Sarah. He speaks very strongly on the theme of unity.