Jesus prayed that we would be one, with the same singularity of the Trinity as three persons in one. If this was a prayer of Jesus, then it must be what God truly desires. Yet, how can us sinful people who make up the Church on Earth be One in the way Jesus prayed?
This kind of unity cannot be achieved through man, it can only be achieved through the power of our Lord God. Jesus said He has given us the glory the Father gave to Him so that we may be one, and it is indeed a great mystery. However, St. Paul gives us much insight into the nature of the Church.
Jesus prayed that we would be brought to perfection as one, and St. Paul explains that Jesus sanctifies the Church through His body, baptism and the word of God. God unifies and perfects us in the Sacraments of the Church. We are baptized into the body of Christ, into His Church through water, and this baptism cleanses us of our sin so that we are made holy and without blemish.
However, baptism does not prevent us from the stain of future sins. We are to be presented to God as holy and without blemish, and thankfully, our benevolent God provided for that too. We can be made perfect again through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as provided by Jesus via the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in the Church. Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, came back to life and His first order of business was to provide for the application of the remission of sins through the Church He established, so that we could be perfected as one.
Another great mystery in the Church is the Eucharist. Not only did Christ give us His body for the atonement of our sins, He also gives Himself perpetually today. Every time we partake of the Blessed Sacrament we are partaking of the same singular Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity that we did every time before, as has everyone who has partaken of the Holy Eucharist all the way back to the apostles. The Eucharist is a timeless, miraculous Church unifier.
At the Holy Sacrifice of the mass heaven and earth are mystically united in time to Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. If our senses fail to detect the miracle made present before us by transubstantiation, then they may also fail us in detecting how at mass each and every week we are united with all of the angels and saints worshiping Jesus by our side. The Eucharist not only unites us among the Church Militant by participation in His singular body and blood, but it also unites us with the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant! When we attend mass we are worshiping Jesus with all of our loved ones who have passed on, literally worshiping with the whole of the Body of Christ! How is that for unity?
If the unity found in the Liturgy of the Eucharist isn’t uniting enough, we can also explore the unity found in the Liturgy of the Word. Every mass, every day, around the world Catholics are unified daily by the lectionary because you can walk into any ordinary Catholic mass and hear the exact same scripture readings (Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, and Gospel) as you would hear if you’d walked in to any other Catholic mass that day, even in another country. If one attends mass daily for three years they will have heard the entire Bible! Holy Mother Church makes sure all of her children have God’s Word made available to them as She understands the utmost importance of it for a believer’s journey.
St. Paul reminded Timothy to remain faithful to what he had been taught because, as St. Paul confesses to the Corinthians, what he teaches is from a source greater than his human self. In the homily our priests combine Sacred Tradition, teachings not of their own but those handed down by the apostles and protected by the Holy Spirit, with Sacred Scripture for a powerful combination of God’s Word.
By combining Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition in every homily, the Church ensures that the faithful may all be able to agree in what is said. This works directly to fulfill Jesus’s prayer that others might be brought to salvation by the testament of unity amongst believers, especially by the unity of their words.
Being Catholic means to give up your “right” to be right, which is the super glue of Church unity. In today’s society we’ve developed a sense that relativism is correct. Everyone has a right to believe whatever it is they feel is the truth. No one has to or even should submit to someone else’s truth. Yet Jesus tells us that the Church He built has the final say in all matters among the faithful. One of the biggest ways a brother can sin against you is to try to convince you of a heresy. It is of the upmost importance that we remain united in the teachings of Christ, and so Jesus provided a definitive source of answers for us fallen souls (because He knew full well we would disagree if left to our own devices).
St. Paul echoes this divine paradigm in his letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 5 contains a graceful passage which weaves teachings about marriage into an explanation of Christ’s relationship to the Church. This profound creative genius elevates Christ’s relationship with the Church to that of the Sacrament of Marriage. Simultaneously St. Paul depicts the elevation of marriage to a Sacrament by comparing it to the Christ and the Church. As a result, St. Paul leads us to an illustration of Christ and the Church as our Father and Mother when he immediately presses into “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right” (don’t be fooled by the chapter markings, St. Paul’s original letter did not contain chapter breaks!). Both the laity and the clergy (even the Pope!) are to be subordinate to the Church. All Catholics are to put aside their man made understandings on truth (say on life issues, contraception, fertility issues, women’s ordination, anything prefaced by “It’s between me and God”) and submit to the wisdom of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit protects within Jesus’s bride, the Church (remember two become one flesh!). This view of the Church brings a whole new meaning to Jesus’s words, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (Lk 18:17) as well as “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Matt 5:3)
This takes an amazing amount of faith. It takes much faith to believe that the bread and wine become the literal flesh and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist when it still looks like bread and wine. It also takes an amazing amount of faith to believe that the Infallible Truth of God can be preserved amongst ordinary humans, when they are still ordinary sinful humans. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Jn 6:60) Well, so is accepting the actuality and Truth of the Trinity, believing that a man died for three days came back to life, and furthermore flew Himself up to Heaven forty days later. Nothing in Christianity is easy to believe, that’s why it takes faith, a saving kind of faith.
(Yesterday’s Mass readings dovetail nicely with this topic!)
My Lord God, I pray not only for us the Church, but also for those who will believe in you through our word, so that we may all be one, as you, Father, are in Jesus and Jesus in you, that we also may be in You, that the world may believe that you sent Our Savior. And Jesus has given us the glory you gave Him, so that we may be one, as You and Your Son are one, He in us and you in Him, that we may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent the Son of Man, and that you loved the world even as you loved the Lamb of God, Your Son. Father, we are your gift to Jesus. I wish that where He is we also may be with Him, that we may see His glory that you gave Him, because you loved Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. Amen.