Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) was the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950. Among her numerous writings, she made this instructive comment on the concept of unity, “we are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” What Gwendolyn was saying is that we excel by uniting with others.
Unity is the basic springboard of progress, and it involves the harmonious functioning of the different parts of a given reality. If we do a critical study, we will discover that nothing moves in life by itself. That means there is always a proximate or immediate synergy for every record of success.
In the Second Reading for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (1 Cor. 12:12-30), St. Paul was very ingenious in the way he used the human body to describe unity in the foreground of diversity. According to him, though the human body is made up of many parts, it is still one body because they assist each other to achieve the excellence of the body.
St. Paul used the analogy of the human body to express how all Christians who in one Spirit are baptized into one body should achieve harmony irrespective of nationality and social status. In other words, St. Paul was making an enduring statement about unity in the Church.
Unity in Ministry of Jesus Christ
Our belief in the Trinity tells us that God is a community of Three Divine Persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If we take it further, we understand that each Person of the Trinity cannot function without the others. So, the Father, when creating, would say, “let us make man in our image after our likeness (Genesis 1:26). Furthermore, the Son would ask the Father to send another Advocate, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16).
The more definitive statement Jesus made about unity is within his long prayer to the Father before his passion and death. Among other things, Jesus prayed: “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Applying the Three Elements to Unity
We often take many things for granted, believing that we know how to achieve them. For instance, as kids, we receive many instructions about things we need to do and not to do, but nobody takes the time to teach us how to achieve them.
We constantly preach and recommend unity, but how to achieve it has not been practically explored and understood. So, it is important to examine some of the essential elements that necessitate the practical realization of unity.
Love: Nothing good and godly happens without love. (By the way, not all good things by the world’s standard are godly). If you check the progression of St. Paul’s exhortation, he treated the phenomenon of love in the chapter following the instruction on unity.
Simply put, love is the glue that binds the different parts together for optimal functioning. Our Lord Jesus demonstrated that love is what unites him to the Father when he said, “As the Father loved me, so I loved you; remain in my love”. (John 15:9). In another place, he says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciple if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Humility: Humility is a potent spiritual arsenal, and it always wins every battle. Significantly, our Lord Jesus Christ won the battle of the cross using the weapon of humility, and that is why he would tell us to learn from him, for he is meek and humble of heart (Matt. 11:29).
Humility helps us not to oversize ourselves; that is being prideful. St. Paul made a connection between humility and unity when writing to the Romans thus: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited”.
Acceptance: The opposite of acceptance is rejection which could happen when the parts fail to achieve harmony.
Rejection has been a problem among believers dating back to the early Christian community when the Hellenists complained about the rejection of their widows in the distribution of food (Acts 6:1). St. Paul would thus advise the Romans (15:7), “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, to bring praise to God.”
Moving Forward: Life is Difficult without Unity
If the source of our being, the Godhead, is an eternal expression of unity, there is every ponderable reason for us to pursue, attain, and sustain unity. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to court the presence of God is to be united.
We live in a world torn apart by disunity, which is one of the destructive weapons of the devil. It is difficult to imagine the number of families and communities torn apart by strife as individuals and groups struggle to be more relevant than others.
The Church should be a sustainable example of unity following the earnest prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us also remember that “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. (Matt. 12:25). God bless you!