“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
These words come at the beginning of the final passage of Jesus’ ‘Final Discourse’ in John’s gospel (17:20-26) at the Last Supper. It is a prayer for UNITY. Immediately following this passage, we read in chapter 18 that Jesus leaves the Upper Room and goes to the Garden.
A prayer for unity, not uniformity. This coming Sunday we will celebrate the “birthday” of the Church, Pentecost. An extraordinary display of unity in the midst of extraordinary diversity of language, culture, ethnicity, you name it. Today’s prayer of Jesus coupled with this Sunday’s feast make totally clear what Jesus’ and God’s desire is for us.
Timely or irrelevant? This question occurs to me because I have been “cursed” with the need to ask myself how the gospels are enfleshed, if you will, in the real world we live in. What do the gospels mean in the real world? What do they look like when lived in the real world?
In today’s real world, in a time of pandemic, there is seemingly some current disagreement about whether or not it is necessary to wear a face mask. By extension there may well be disagreement also about the meaning and/or significance of the common good. Very significant issues with potentially very significant consequences.
Does diversity negate unity? Not, it would seem, if Pentecost is any indication. Is there a lesson here that God would have us learn and benefit from? Or not?
Obviously difficult questions without obvious answers.
Perhaps some helpful questions are:
What does our faith say to us?
What direction does Jesus point us in?
What are some of HIS starting values, priorities and assumptions?
Do they perhaps challenge some aspects of ‘conventional wisdom’?
Might Jesus’ spirit of inclusiveness and tolerance translate into a spirit and attitude of “both/and”, as opposed to “either/or”?
Perhaps there are some necessary tensions that Jesus’ prayer raises? Tensions that might point in some helpful directions?
Or does the gospel have nothing to say to our current reality?
Jesus’ prayer for unity. Timely or irrelevant?