“THAT WE MAY BE ONE” HOMILY FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

we-be-one

There is power in unity or if you like in oneness. A single ant is equivalent to nothing in terms of belligerent attacks, but colonies of  army ants could bring down any creature no matter how big and powerful. According to National Geographic, colonies of army ants are nature’s Mongol hordes and this is simply on account of the strength of their unity.

The easiest way to destroy any family or group of people is to create unhealthy competition and rivalry among them. This will bring about disunity and eventually the collapse of the family or group in question. Being together in a family, group or community as one is not really a very easy activity because that would involve the collapsing of individualities to have one strong entity.

Our Lord Jesus Christ knew that the community he was leaving behind would face the challenge of remaining one as he designed. It was based on this foreknowledge that he took some time to pray intensively for unity in what we know today as the priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ which has the theme: “That they may be one”.

In the apostolic college, one can imagine how unity could have been a contending issue with so many diverse characters: the highly emotional Simon Peter, the doubting Thomas, the calculative Matthew, the ambitious sons of Zebedee (James and John),the extra social Andrew, the pragmatic Philip, the spotless Bartholomew (Nathaniel), the highly reserved James (the less), Simon (the Zealot) and Thaddeus (Jude) and finally, the mischievous Judas Iscariot.

At some instances when our Lord was with them they quarrelled and argued among themselves. For instance on who was the greatest among them (Luke 9:46). Also, ten of the apostles frowned at the ambitious sons of Zebedee (James and John) who wanted to sit on the right and left sides of our Lord Jesus Christ in his glory (Mark 10:35-45). Even in the later apostolic community we notice so much disagreement to the extent that Paul asked if Christ was divided as some were for Paul, some for Peter and others for Apollos (1 Cor.1:11-13). We can all recall that the issue of circumcision brought a great deal of disagreement in the early Christian communities (Act 15:1-2). The situation has not changed in our day and age. In fact, it is more shameful today that people who are working in God’s vineyard have resorted to mundane competition, calumny and back stabbing. Some preach oneness and never practice it.

Now let us look closely at the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ that is extant in the Gospel today (John 17:20-26). We are told from the outset that our Lord lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed. That is the spiritual posture for praying as our help comes from above (Psalm 121:1-2). In the prayer, he asked that the apostles, and as well as all of us (those who will believe in him through their word), be one as he is one with the Father.

Now there is a big difference between an instruction, a wish, and a prayer. In this context, our Lord was not giving them an instruction. He had done that before when he said: “love one another as I have loved you so that they would know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). In this context, however, our Lord Jesus Christ turned the instruction or wish into an ardent prayer. This is at the same time a lesson for us not just to wish for something to happen but to pray ardently for what we desire to happen. When we stop praying we start perishing. Keep praying God will answer (Luke 11:9).

If we keep track with the Gospel passage, we will discover that our Lord continued to make reference to the unity between him and the Father as the model of unity he anticipated for us: “…that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one…” The unity between the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit is undisputable. It is a unity that tells us so much. The Father is different from the Son and the Holy Spirit; they are different persons yet they are one, the same God.

From the example our Lord was giving with the unity between him and the Father, we can see that he was at the same time praying that though we might be diverse in many things, we should still remain one. This oneness should not be by merely saying it. It should rather show itself in action. Especially while undertaking one task or the other.

This oneness should not be a social oneness where people are brought together either by liquor, football fan-hood or similar things. It is should not be a kind of oneness that is political, where people are brought together by an ideology or agenda. It should not be a geographical or racial oneness where people from the same area or location become one. It should not even be mere religious oneness where people are united by a common creed. It should rather be a spiritual oneness that goes beyond the social, political, racial. geographical, religious and so on.

This oneness is expected to start from our various families. Today many families have broken apart because of the absence of unity. Some couples now see themselves as competitors instead of companions. For many, it is about who is right and who is wrong. Who is better and who is worse or who is the loudest in the room. Often we forget that on the platform of marriage, couples are one. When one person falls it is the failure of the two and when one person rises it is the rising of the two.

This oneness is needed in our various communities, States, and Nations. The rising spate of insecurity and terrorism in the world as a whole are indications of mutual discontent, rivalry, and disunity. For someone to rise and kill another person for no just cause is a demonstration of a deep-rooted disconnection and lack of fellow feeling. We have numerous instances of mass killing in various places in the world often pegged on some obnoxious and miscalculated religious and ethnic creed. Nobody has right to kill in the name of God or anything at all. God gave life and He can take it when He deems necessary. It is wrong to kill another person who is also a beneficiary of the life just as we all are.

The numerous religions we have in the world today have no perfect story about oneness to share. It is most unfortunate that even in our Christian religion oneness is still farfetched as Churches keep multiplying every day and making unity an illusion. It is most unfortunate that most Christians cannot sit together not to talk about living together. In fact, we have mutual suspicion and antagonism. Even within the same Church we still notice but silent and very overt bickering among various groups and organisations. Some claim to be more superior than others. Where then is the oneness our Lord prayed about.

In the final verse of the prayer, our Lord Jesus Christ prayed for love: “…that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them”. Here we understand that oneness cannot be realised unless it has love as a platform. That was why we noted earlier that oneness should be a spiritual construct because that which is authentically spiritual is related to God.

Without love, oneness and unity will be a temporary agreement. There is the need for us to let love lead us. When we do this, the oneness and unity that our Lord prayed about will become a reality and our lives as individuals and groups will be transformed. Where love is  where it is genuine and perfect, God can be found. And where God is goodness abounds. May we all the one!

Do have a great Sunday and an awesomely blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

One Comment on ““THAT WE MAY BE ONE” HOMILY FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

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