Monday, June 3, 2013

Work, Pray, Love--"That all may be one"

In John 17, Jesus exhorts and beckons his followers to unity.  Three times Jesus prays to the Father for those who believe in him, "that all may be one."  And each time he adds the conditional clause, "even as we are one.Romano Guardini describes this “high priestly prayer” in dramatic terms:  “A hand reaches out from divine unity into the fallen world.  Possibly no other passage in Holy Scripture is so heavy with the sense of our plunge from grace as this.” 
Even as:  Should we say "ouch" or "amen"?!  Ouch because this profound prayer for Christian unity remains unanswered?  Ouch because the scandal of Christian disunity is an offense against the Communion of Persons we profess each time we baptize or bless ourselves in the name of the Most Holy Trinity?  Ouch because the Kingdom has yet to be born in my own heart? 
Or should we say Amen because we know that we can do nothing alone?  Amen because we are willing to pray, "I believe, Lord, help my unbelief," and "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful..."?  Amen because we are willing to work, pray, and love "'that all may be one"?


Work.  Where do we see signs of Christian unity in our local, national and global communities?  Any place where the hungry are being fed in Jesus' name.  Any place where the migrant peoples, “strangers and sojourners,” are being welcomed in Jesus’ name.  Any place where the poor--including those who are materially rich, but spiritually impoverished--hear the Good News proclaimed. 
One recent sign of Christian unity at work is the Manhattan Declaration.  Drafted by Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Christian leaders, this clarion call challenges Christians to take a stand on three vital issues: the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage, and religious liberty.  With over 500,000 signatures, the Declaration is a prophetic witness by the entire church of Christ in the face of powerful ideologies.
Pray.  How can we enter into a more profound communion with God and others through a deeper life of prayer?  The living Word of God needs to be our starting point.  Catholics in particular need to dive more deeply into the Scriptures.  We need to understand that the entire Mass, that Prayer of Prayers, is woven from beginning to end with words from the Word. We need to take the Scriptures into the classroom of silence in order that they might bear fruit in our daily lives. 
One incredible new resource that's available is the Truth and Life Dramatized Audio Bible.  With free Apps, software for PCs, sample download of the Gospel of Mark, plus the entire text of the New Testament with a most incredible search engine, this is simply a remarkable resource.  The Holy Spirit has inspired all of the Scriptures and wants to speak to us in and through them.  What better way to pray than to let God's words open our minds and hearts?
Love.  How can Christians overcome division, disharmony and discord--which are all hallmarks of the father of lies?  It's time to really live the Lord's Prayer.  It’s time to let the Kingdom come here on earth even as it already is in heaven; it’s time to acknowledge that we've all wounded and been wounded by others, so we should forgive even as we long to be forgiven.  Check out Matt Maher's four-minute meditation on this “even as” in his rendition of the Our Father.


Finally, in a recent Wednesday audience on the mystery of the Church, Pope Francis explained that God's plan is “to make of all of us one family of his children, [a family] in which each one feels close to and loved by him … feels the warmth of being the family of God. The Church—not an organization born out of an agreement between some persons but … the work of God, born of this love and progressively built in history—has her origin in this great plan.” 
We are all sons and daughters of a heavenly Father.  Therefore, each of us is challenged to embrace our neighbors as brothers and sisters, "even as" Jesus embraces us as his brothers and sisters.  Let's continue saying a wholehearted "amen" to this gift of divine unity, even as the heavenly host of angels and the communion of saints roots us on!