First Reading: Acts 1:15-17.20a.20c-26; Psalm: 103. R. v. 19a; Second Reading: 1Jn 4:11-16; Gospel: Jn 1711b-19 



That they may be one - Nambucca Baptist Church

We are one week close to Pentecost Sunday; the day we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church which also brings to an end the Easter season. The Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit consecrated the apostles in the truth that together as one, they boldly witnessed to Christ in action and preaching. Today’s gospel reading offers the right disposition to this great anticipated encounter.

The gospel of today is a section of the priestly prayer of Jesus for his disciples at the Upper Room prior to his passion. Among other things, Jesus prayed for the unity of his disciples because he knows if they are divided, they cannot evangelise the world effectively; for a divided church is a dysfunctional church. Jesus knows the manner of men he chose as disciples. He knows they are imperfect men marked by different backgrounds and varied beliefs and ambitions. Recall the request of the ambitious sons of Zebedee; and how the rest of the ten were indignant about it (Mt 20:20-28). The disciples have also argued who was the greatest among them (Lk 22:24-30). Jesus was absolutely aware of the lack of synergy among these men, and so he prayed that they may be one.

But when we take a closer look at this prayer of Jesus, it appears Jesus was asking for the impossible. Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (vs 11). Can the oneness that exists between the Father and the Son be replicated in human relationships? How could this be possible? “That they may be one, even as we are one” is apparently an impossible request. We all know that following this prayer of Jesus was Judas’ betray and Peter’s denial; and consequent to Jesus’ arrest, the rest of the disciples were scattered. So, the fragility of these men did not change thereafter.

But the oneness that Jesus prayed for is not really in matters of human relationship, but basically in matters of faith. Whether it looks impossible or not, Jesus’ prayer that his disciples may be one just as he and the Father are one, is a perfect revelation of his will for his Church which we as a Church should strive after. Jesus is not saying that no one will ever fall out of the faith; but that we should cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” (1Cor 14:33). The Spirit is the agent of the Church’s unity. When Judas was planning to betray his master, he closed his heart to God’s invitation.

Jesus is also not saying that people will never fall out of the faith; but that believers who cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit should sustain and carry on the one faith. When Judas fell out; the apostles carried on and have him replaced. So, Jesus was not unaware of the several trials that his apostles would face. He knows they are in the world and must face the opposition of the world which was why he prayed to his Father: “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.” (vs 15). The evil one is the agent of division and confusion.

Our oneness as a Church consists in one Church, one faith, and one baptism in Jesus Christ kept unspoiled through apostolic succession. We are not the primary agents of this unity; God is. The gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Church consolidates this unity, and consecrates in us the truth of the gospel that we have received. So, we can only remain one in faith and sustain the truth of the gospel when we cooperate with the Spirit who is the agent of truth and the agent of the Church’s unity and not the agent of confusion and division. It is for this reason that genuine ecumenism becomes imperative to preserve the one faith violated by the emergence of different Christian Churches.

In his 1995 encyclical, Ut unum sint (“That they may be one”), Pope John Paul II said; “To believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father’s plan from all eternity.” As Catholics, we are called to desire this communion of grace that corresponds to the Father’s plan by remaining one with the Church. We are called to cooperate with the Spirit, the agent of the Church’s unity by preserving and carrying on the faith received through apostolic succession. Because the unity of the Church is the perfect symbol of the Body of Christ without which the Body of Christ is wounded.

As we await the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we pray that the Holy Spirit will rekindle in us the desire to cooperate with this grace of oneness, so as to preserve the unity of the Body of Christ and to fulfil the will of the Father made known by the priestly prayer of Christ his Son. Amen.


Lord Jesus, it is your will and prayer that your Church may be one as you and the Father are one. We pray that your Christian people may listen and cooperate with the grace of the Spirit, that the Body of Christ may become one in faith in accordance with the will of the Father. Amen

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