For unity, take courage and be humble

Gospel Reflection 

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are 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 loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

A distressed middle-aged lady church volunteer once approached me after a very long day of packing and distributing relief goods to a depressed community in Quezon City. She showed me a comment on social media by another  church worker criticizing the efforts of the church in providing aid to its parishioners.

She was distressed because she was tired, after days of packing, distributing, cleaning, and even moving sacks of rice. Even ladies had to do that because the number of volunteers is limited. And then a series of bad comments started coming out on social media, accusing the volunteers of benefiting from their volunteer work, e.g. getting more relief goods, or getting paid, etc etc., which is untrue, of course. But such comments are a sword that wounds well-meaning people, and it would really discourage someone who is very very tired, who is risking their health and the health of their family as they are vulnerable of being exposed to the virus, and who is in fact not getting anything from their service, except perhaps the reward in heaven.

Rumors, and rumors within the church and in our communities causes division.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of the disunity of the Pharisees and the Sadducee. They had doctrinal differences, which Paul used to his advantage, to spark confusion among his accusers. He was successful, of course, but the message of the encounter we would see at the end of the passage: “Take courage.”

Our Gospel today is the conclusion of the Farewell discourse of Christ, during the Last Supper. He closed the conversation with his disciples with a prayer. The passage we read today is the part of the prayer that is meant for the future church, for those faithful who believed because of the witness of the original disciples. That’s us, and Jesus is praying for us, for our unity, that despite our differences, with love, we will be united.

“So that they may be one, as we are one,” Jesus said. But just as the story above, we can be very dis-united and this is the devil. For centuries, the church has seen various divisions, but we have to take courage to be able to humble ourselves and to listen and learn from what others are saying about our faith and of their faith. 

As Nostra Aetate would put it: “(The Catholic Church) regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.” Listen and recognize that ray of God’s light that would help enlighten our understanding of God’s Word.

“That they may be brought to perfection as one.” As one, but what "as one" will there be if we do not have the courage to humble ourselves and could never be wrong? It takes courage to admit that you are wrong, mind you, especially if you strongly believe that you right. Courage. Humility.

“That the world may know that you sent me.” But how can we show the world that Jesus was sent by God, how can we be effective witnesses when we could not even live the life that Jesus wanted us to live – to live in unity, as one, for love to flourish in our communities, for people to experience the peace, the Kaginhawahan of God in our community if there is so much division? We just could not humble ourselves and we could never be wrong. Them, others, they are always wrong.

“And that you loved them even as you loved me.” Yes, truly God loves us, He loves us even if we could not afford to love Him back. Even if we do not know how to love Him. He already told us though, but sometimes doing it can be difficult. He said: “Love your neighbor as yourself;” “Love your neighbor as I have loved you.” As God loved us, if we really know this love, if we really experienced this love, then we would not be able to contain this love, and we can only have love for others. Love, love, love, love, love, love.

But instead, nowadays we can only truly love one thing… at this moment we are so enamored at the prospect of becoming famous. 

Social media has given us, ordinary people, the capacity, the power and the freedom to express our thoughts and be heard by thousands if not millions of people all over the world. You can post just about anything, anything and everything about you or about others, but as Christians, as followers of Christ, this tool, this medium should not be the instrument of our disunity. The freedom that this tool has given us must become an instrument for us to be witnesses of God’s love and this can only happen if we allow ourselves to be guided by the teachings of Christ. That is, if we would have the courage to listen to Christ’s teachings, to act on it, and to humble ourselves in front of trials and persecutions. As Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco puts it, “We must only tell stories that are true and those that bring hope to others.” Stories that would “promote the goodness of life.” This takes courage mind you. 

Brothers and sisters, as we listen to God’s message to us through the Gospel of John, let us remember that our love for each other, as brothers and sisters; our love for the Order and our love for the church can only be made manifest in our unity. Yes, we have differences, but we must learn to take courage to face those differences, if need be, if we can stay quite, let the other be “right,” then so be it. Trust in the Holy Spirit because if you are trully right, the brother or sister will surely be guided by the Spirit in His time.

Unity is an expression of love. 

Let this be our prayer.


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