Household Reflection November 2014

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“...that they may be one even as we are one…”
John 17:22

 

When his hour had come, Jesus offered up his “priestly prayer” to the Father, praying on behalf of all believers, that we may be one. Often, we have a tendency to reduce this oneness to a mere resolution of conflicts, a general sense of togetherness with fellow Christians, or perhaps the temporary joyful feeling that we have at gatherings. But Jesus’ prayer goes beyond these meanings; in fact, it transcends what is humanly possible or even humanly understandable. Jesus is not here praying for a general sense of unity, but he specifically prays that we may “become perfectly one”, even as the Father and the Son are one!

 

The “even as we are one” refers to the special unity that Jesus shares with the Father. Before Christ, God revealed much to the People of God through patriarchs and prophets. Through these “many and various ways” we came to know that God loved His people, that He was faithful, merciful, just and powerful. “But in these last days, He has spoken to us by a Son” (Heb 1:1-2). This is significant because though many people can say many things about God, the only One who knows God intimately as “Father” is his only Son. Indeed, “no one knows the Father except  the Son, and anyone to whom the Son reveals him” (Mt 11:27). He wanted us to know that he did everything in filial obedience, “so that the world may know that I love the Father” (Jn 14:31). And He taught us to love God in the same way as he does, calling out to him affectionately as “Abba”, as “Our Father in heaven”. Likewise, the Father also bears witness to the Son and to how much he loves him saying, “This is my beloved Son.” The two remain in an eternal, unfathomable, all-powerful unity of love, and it is this unity who is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity.

 

The Names of the three Divine Persons as Christ has revealed them to us (“Father”, “Son”, and “Holy Spirit” – Mt 28:19) have special significance. It is one thing to say that the First Person in the Trinity is a father. But it is

another to say that he is Father. In the first case, he would be first of all a person with his own unique identity,

on top of which he would also be related to someone else as father, like our own fathers are related to us. But to say that he is simply Father, means that his personal identity is not separate from his relation in any way. His personal identity is given entirely by his relation to the Son. In other words He is a pure relation. He is pure Paternity. "For the Father is Father not with respect to himself but to the Son, and the Son is Son not to himself but in relation to the Father; and likewise the Holy Spirit is not referred to himself but is related to the Father and the Son...” (The Eleventh Council of Toledo - 675 AD). Since the Persons in the Trinity are not just related to one another but rather are “pure relations”, it is no wonder that St. John can say that God is not just perfectly loving, but that God is love.

 

To understand the full meaning of “as we are one”, we must strive to understand the Holy Spirit. St. Augustine writes, “the Holy Spirit, according to the Holy Scriptures, is neither of the Father alone, nor of the Son alone, but of both; and so intimates to us a mutual love, wherewith the Father and the Son reciprocally love one another.” Indeed, the Father and the Son eternally offer themselves to each other in total love as self-gift, and this divine giftedness is the Holy Spirit, “Who proceeds from the Father and the Son”. For this reason, St. John Paul II calls him “Person-Love” and “Person-Gift” (Dominum et Vivificantem). Therefore, if we are to be one as the Father and the Son are one, we must also share in their love - we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed for this when he prayed, “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them”. St. Paul likewise teaches, “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Thus in receiving the Spirit, we are able to participate in that profound union of the Divine Persons, we are mysteriously drawn into the “nexus of love” of the Father and the Son. It is only by this kind of participation in the Spirit that we can ultimately fulfill the prayer of Christ, to be one even as He and the Father are one.

 

All this brings to our awareness the unsearchable depths of what is called for by our pillar of ‘Fellowship’. It does not end with avoiding conflicts or with the joyful experience of gathering together, though these are naturally an important part. But fellowship is a call for us to be one, even as the Father and the Son are one! It is a call for us to participate in the very life of the Trinity, this being possible not by mere human effort, but by the Holy Spirit working in us. Fellowship therefore, understood in its full sense, is an end in itself, an invitation to come out of our self-centeredness and to allow the Divine “Person-Gift” to make of us also a genuine gift to the other.

 

"The Lord Jesus, when he prayed to the Father, 'that all may be one...as we are one' (Jn 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for he implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself" (Second Vatican Council - Gaudium et Spes)

 

 

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