May 29, 2022
by Eileen Burke-Sullivan
Creighton University's Division of Mission and Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Seventh Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 61

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 97:1-2, 6-7, 9
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
John 17:20-26

Praying Ordinary Time

For those celebrating the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord today

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

An Even Better Marriage

As the Easter Season comes to close one (human) word is central to understanding the message of the (Divine) Word: Unity.

Jesus says, before he leaves His human companions, that we must be united in one mind, heart and act We must recognize and act with one mind and heart toward one another and one toward the rest of creation.  We do not belong to God, and we do not live in God’s Reign, unless we love one another so completely that our very existence, in union with others, proclaims that God is. 

Simply put, whenever Christians are at war with one another there can be no faith in Jesus.  The world cannot know or believe in God – we who are meant to proclaim the Gospel in faith tragically become a barrier to that faith.

Driving across the city a few days ago I heard a commentary on NPR about dissention in the Evangelical Christian Churches these days – often rooted in misinformation, conspiracy theories, conflicts between pastors or other leaders who want to invite their communities deeper into love for Jesus, and communities who are hatefully divided over racism and privilege, vaccinations in the face of the COVID pandemic, compassion toward the poor, toward people of other ethnic heritages.  All ideologies reflecting the signs of the times in the United States and even worldwide.

Evangelical Christian congregations are not exceptional in their failure to hear today’s gospel passage.  Ideological dissension afflicts Catholics who are angrily divided in their parishes, and dioceses, among dioceses and with the Holy Father.  Progressive Protestants fail to be united in love with each other or with bishops. Priests too are divided from their fellow ordained and divided from their bishops and leaders. 

This is not to say that it is bad for peoples to have diverse opinions about how best the Gospel might be lived.  It leads to dissention when our opinions are superior to everyone else’s.  Gentle disagreement often sharpens the truth for us.  But ideological division is different from genuine diversity.  Here there is hatred of the Gospel Message itself – its command to love.  The Gospel command of Jesus is that we are to go forth and claim all human persons for the Kingdom, to so love one anther that the Gospel irresistibly attracts persons who deeply NEED to be in union.  We were created for unity.  When we are so divided from brothers and sisters, when we are divided from God, we are divided from our own personhood – we are each tearing ourselves apart and effectively destroying our hope, our happiness, and our very lives. 

The passage that we hear today from the Gospel of John asserts that where there is unity of love.  The world hears and knows the compelling call to the Father who sent Jesus if the messenger practices what she proclaims.  In the heart of God’s compassion, we find life and happiness.   The call to reconciliation, the call to care for those in need, the call to share the Bread and Cup of life – these siren calls to the Christian are rooted in the work of the Spirit to enrich us in communion with oness another and with God.  “See how those Christians love one another” the scriptures assert. 

My own prayer is for the grace of love for those I least like.  Liking helps us to love, but it is not love itself.  It is a human affection that God has given to us to make some loves easier.  Dislike makes it more challenging to genuinely love someone, but it need not stop the grace of God.

Love is the power to overcome dislike or disapproval or annoyance or past behavior or fear of what someone might do – all this and more to make it possible to deeply desire only the good for each person.  If I want someone to be destroyed or to “get their comeuppance,” I do not love him or her or them.  It is easiest to hate groups that I disagree with . . . but I don’t have that permission from God.  God does not hate the enemies of the Divine. 

So today we hear the clarion call of Easter renewed “so that they may be one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that YOU LOVE THEM EVEN AS YOU LOVE ME.”

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