May 21, 2023
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. ***
May is my favorite month of the year. No other month comes close to the delight I find in May. There is so much transformation to watch! After the long winter slumber, the warming soil makes way for spring’s heralds as the ferns and trilliums push through last season’s blanket of leaves. The birds that have endured the long winter welcome return of cousins who add to the rainbow of color at the feeders and the chorus of song high up in the trees.
May, unlike any another other month, wants us to feel fully alive. All things seem possible now. Until the daily news assaults my spring-inspired mindset.
Today as I write this piece, the news features the record pace of mass killings in the USA. I had to look up what defines a mass killing and I learned it is an incident in which four or more victims, not counting the assailant, are killed. The Associated Press tells me that mass killings this year have been driven “exclusively by gun violence.”
The frequency of this horror has put civic and political leaders on the spot more often as people’s frustrations grow. These officials get in front of the camera time and time again and call for “thoughts and prayers” for victim’s families.
I am close to running out of post-massacre prayers, even while my heart is weighed down for the families of law enforcement officers, children, teachers, young adults and others who die senselessly. As I weary praying for some, any transformation in how America deals with its problems of gun violence, I read the assigned Gospel for today which shows us the heart of the Divine.
Jesus is praying to his Father. It is the evening of His last meal with his disciples where he washes their feet, gives them a new commandment to love as he loves, and told them of his leaving. Now he prays. In this reading we overhear a portion of the prayer.
Notice Jesus prays for us. That’s a relief. I hope Jesus continues to pray for us! Two times he asks God that we would become one as He and the Father are one. On this front, I’m a little jaded to imagine that unity in this country right now.
If Jesus is praying for our oneness, then he is also recognizing and rejecting the differences that divide us.
So many divisions exist within us, our families, our churches, our nation. We live in a world full of divisions. We are divided male and female; rich and poor; gay and straight; black and white; Christian and Muslim; conservative and liberal; educated and uneducated; young and old; pro-life and pro-choice, believer and unbeliever. We could go on listing the divisions that we encounter and all too often establish or promote. They are not just divisions. They are oppositions.
All these divisions exist first in the human heart. We project them into the world through our fragmented lives.
David Brooks of the New York Times wrote: “Social scientists have shown in one experiment after another, it is very easy to get people to divide people into in-groups and out-groups. Simply spread a tacit ideology that says something such as women are less important than men or Black people are less important than white people. You use euphemistic language so that horrific acts can be abstracted into sanitized jargon.” (New York Times, May 26, 2022).
For every line and division we establish there is a human being. Boundaries and differences are not simply about issues. They are about real people who have names and who live with joys, sorrows, concerns, and needs just like us. I think we sometimes forget or ignore this. It is easier to deal with an issue than a real person.
Whether or not we admit it the boundaries we establish and enforce are usually done in such a way as to favor us; to make us feel ok, to reassure us that our position is the correct one, that we are right and in control, chosen and desired, seen and recognized, approved of and accepted. To further the divisions, the prevalence of thought is that in order for me to win someone must lose, in order for me to be included someone must be excluded, otherwise winning and being included mean nothing. The divisions of our lives in some way become self-perpetuating. But Jesus’ prayer is for something completely different.
In our corporate life we often deal with the boundaries and differences that divide us by writing policies, covenants, constitutions and legislation that govern how we will get along with each other and behave in the midst of our differences. But that is not Jesus’ prayer.
Jesus prays for us to be one. He does not pray for us to be tolerant, or to get along, or just being nice to each other. He does not pray that our differences would be eliminated. Rather, he prays for our oneness. He prays that we would be one as he and the Father are one so that our oneness would be the revelation of God’s presence to the world. Oneness in the midst of differences becomes a sacramental, communal presence of God’s life in the world.
Oneness is not about eliminating differences. Oneness is qualitative. It is about love. Love is the only thing that can ever overcome division. Over and over Jesus tells us that.
Love your enemy.
Our love for God, neighbor, self, and enemy reveals our oneness, and the measure of our oneness, our God-likeness, is love. In love there may be differences, but there is no division.
God’s love knows no boundaries. God loves every category, definition or label we attached to people and all are loved fully, completely, and uniquely as each needs. I know, shocking, isn’t it!
God does not draw boundaries between Jesus and us. If we think God loves Jesus more than anyone else, we have missed the point of the Gospel. God loves you the same as God loves Jesus. God loves your neighbor the same as God loves Jesus. God loves your enemy the same as God loves Jesus. If that is how God loves how can we do anything less and still call ourselves Christians?
For far too long we have dealt with each other through our boundaries, differences, and divisions. Look around and see where that has gotten us. You need only pay scant attention to news in the world to see the dire state of the human family. When we deal with others through our divisions then it is that we label them, do violence, and hunker down to defend our position. There is no oneness in that.
Though Jesus is praying to the Father for us, we will in large part be the ones to answer Jesus’ prayer. We answer the prayer every time we choose how to love, who to love, where to love.
It is time we answer Jesus’ prayer and deal with one another in love. In attitude and action. So, I wonder, who are at the boundaries of your love?