Today is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist.
John referred to himself as ‘the one whom Jesus loved’, and it was St. John who gives us such great insight into the heart of Jesus, through his gospel, and especially through his account of Our Lord’s discourse during the Last Supper.
In Chapter 17 of St. John’s gospel, he records Jesus’ prayer for his church, which is very appropriate at this time of year, when we talk so much about peace and brotherhood. The entire chapter focuses on Jesus’ request to the Father that ‘all should be one’, which will be a sign to the world that Jesus is truly the Son of God, and His message is to be received because of that unity.
“…The glory which you have given me I have given to them,
that they may be one even as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may become perfectly one,
so that the world may know that you have sent me
and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23)
This says so much to us about Christian unity.
Jesus desires our unity, our becoming one, not only as a father desires that his children are kind to one another, and respect one another, but because this unity will be a sign to all unbelievers that Christianity is true, that God is true, that Scripture is indeed a true record of both God’s revelation of Himself to us and of the historical life of the Man-God, Jesus Christ.
This passage elevates our search for Christian unity from merely being a desire which is close to the hearts of many Christians, simply because it is close to God’s heart, to what must become an incessant search and a driving force in our lives – even if only in our prayer-lives. God desires our unity, but also demands and requires it – He gives Christian unity as a pre-requisite for the conversion of the entire world.
Christian unity is not something that is to be easily found.
The obstacles to unity are very great, on a personal level, and on a formal level.
Perhaps this quote from Isaiah could be seen as prophecy, or a promise that we will one day be united:
“Therefore says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the House of Jacob:
‘Jacob shall no more be ashamed,
no more shall his face grow pale.
For when he sees his children,
the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,
and those who murmur will accept instruction.” (Isaiah 29: 22-24)
And it is St. John to whom we look for the antidote to disunity: we must become like the Apostle of Love and be known for our great love for one another.
We must focus on what we have in common – if we focus on the obstacles, then we will lose heart, because the obstacles are too great.
God has assured us that He Himself will open our eyes and ears and create unity, so that we will sanctify His name in unison.
In the meantime, our task is to love one another ‘in humility.’