One in the Spirit, One in the Lord

Readings for 7th Thursday after Easter (C2)

…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. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one.

John 17:21-23a

JMJ

THERE IS A LOT going on here! We’ve got Trinitarian theology, Christology, soteriology, doxology, and evangelical proclamation. There’s one other in there picking up on all the above: human anthropology. This might surprise you. But it’s that phrase “brought to perfection” that’s our punchline.

Before we get to the punchline though…

Our Lord prays for some surprising things: we are to be one in exactly the same way that the Son and the Father are one. That’s not hyperbole, it’s a command. Church is called to model before the world the unity present in the Holy Trinity. Three persons in one nature and consubstantial. Humans are not consubstantial. But there is only one nature. We all share the same human nature (together with Jesus). We are not each an isolated individual. There are not multiple ways of being human, or different types of humanity. (This is why St Paul classes some sins as “paraphysis” or “against nature”: we are all of one nature.) Yes, we are fallen because of sin, but God calls us back to the originally intended unity in Jesus.

To this end, Jesus has shared with us his glory. You may be tempted to think of that in terms of the Transfiguration or in the way Moses’ face was glowing as he came down from Mt Sinai. That would not be totally correct. The glorification of God is the Cross. Christ has given us his cross and shared with us his glory. What that means is that now human life – itself – this pathway to death is now the road to the throne of glory. It’s not that some human lives (or perhaps a few) have been rerouted or mended. Remember we all share the same nature. God has walked this path with us now: the road leads from the womb to the tomb, yes. But God has glorified it.

And so we are all called to unity in God’s Spirit of Unity. Pentecost, coming upon us this Sunday, is the gift of unity poured out upon us. We rest in the Holy Spirit who gives us all the spiritual presence of the Holy Trinity dwelling within us, around us, through us, and between us. Yet only as we love for he himself is love.

We are called to live out this unity however we fail. Yet we are called to this unity. Not just some of us – all of us. And it is not just a calling. It’s what we are made for!

It relies on the Greek word τελειόω (teleioó) – to bring to perfection – and from there on the root word τέλειος (teleios) – to perfect. Jesus prays to “bring us to perfection”. You can read it as “to complete” but you must include the meaning of “correct” as in: to bring to the correct and intended (or planned) completion. Jesus is praying that his followers will be brought to their perfection as humans meaning the ultimate end for which God made us, that is the ultimate perfection for which God made humanity at all. God made man “to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” (Baltimore Catechism 1 Q6)

The reason this is anthropology is this teleology, as it’s called, is not only for Christians. The right end for all humanity is to know God, to love God, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. And this is how far we fail when we fail to model this for others: that the world fails to see the light for its salvation. If we who claim to be in Christ do not make it so, then those who are unable to see Christ at all will never see Christ until it’s too late.

The solution is not more outreach but rather reaching in. We need to bring our hearts deeper to God so that, as the song says, “they will know we are Christians by our love.” That is, as the verse says, “see how these Christians love each other.”

Now… I look at Catholic social media or even the way I gossip about my friends, and I wonder if that love is present in my life. If someone looked at my life would they say they are amazed at how I love people?

I don’t know. There’s still a lot of work to do.

How about your life?

Author: Huw Richardson

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He feeds the homeless and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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