Ezekiel speaks for God to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, now exiled in Babylon. Their trouble had started four centuries earlier when the one nation of the Hebrews had split into Judah and Israel, and the situation had gone downhill pretty much ever since. Now, here they are, exiles in a foreign land. God’s message is not just one of hope but of unity. It prefigures Jesus’ own impassioned prayer to His Father “. . . that they all may be one, as You Father in Me, and I in You, that they may be one in Us . . .” (John 17:20–21). It’s echoed, also, if ironically, in the words of Caiaphas in today’s Gospel to the effect that Jesus was going to “gather into one the dispersed children of God”.
Humans, it seems, scatter and divide, while God gathers and unites. In the 2,000+ years since Jesus’ death, our history, like that of the ancient Israelites, has been one of division upon divisions –within families, nations, religions, within Christianity even – perhaps the most scandalous of all our divisions.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to do His will “on earth, as in heaven”. It’s very clear that God’s will is that his fractious human children should get together – become one. (Remember: unity does not mean uniformity.) Why are we so divisive? That’s not hard to figure out. It’s arrogance, pride, greed, and power lust. “I am right, and to the extent that you differ from me, you’re wrong. Sure, we can all get together! All you have to do is see it my way.” Power lust was what was behind the Jewish leaders’ opposition to Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. Notice also John’s dramatic contrast between Caiaphas’ summary of Jesus’ gathering God’s dispersed children and the sentence “So from that day on they planned to kill Him.”
As always, these are not just interesting historical footnotes. They apply very much to each of us, personally, today. Look around – in our parishes, in our diocese, in the larger church. Are there divisions? Do we contribute to them? If not, are we at least working to heal them? If my answer to the last of these is “no”, then how is it that I am manifesting God’s unifying vision?
Fifteen years ago the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin launched a Catholic Common Ground Initiative, designed precisely to heal the rifts within the Church. Some of the key Principles of Dialogue that the Initiative proposed are even more relevant and urgent today than they were then:
Yes, a cardinal, president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, said these things. Have we heard?
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