As I sit down to write this reflection, I can’t help but think of the bombing yesterday in Manchester, England. Yet another terrorist attack on innocent civilians; this time, young people gathered for a pop concert at The Manchester Arena. The BBC reports 22 people confirmed dead and another 55 injured. Monday’s attack in Manchester is added to those in Paris, Madrid, London, Burgas, Oslo, Brussels, Nice, Munich, Berlin, and Zurich as European cities that have suffered attacks by extremist Islamic terrorists since 2004. What was once unthinkable has now, sadly, lost some of its sense of shock – but not it’s terror. I’m struck by the violence and pain we human beings inflict on each other, and by the dangers we face and the suffering we endure. Faced by seemingly endless violence and threats, it’s easy to succumb to the dualistic paradigm of “us” vs. “them”.
However, when I read the passage from John’s gospel appointed for this Sunday, the words that most resonate with me are the words that Jesus prays. “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” These words point to deep and mysterious theological doctrines about the nature of Jesus the Christ and the Holy Trinity and how we, also, participate in that divine relationship. But Jesus’ prayer also has a more simple, straight-forward message as well. As he prepares to leave his disciples, he prays for their unity, that they might be one as he and the Father are one. Jesus also prays for our unity, as those who bear his name - we are Christians, after all. Because we bear the name of the Christ –– we share in the divine relationship between the Father and the Son
From this we can see that God is calling us to be one not only with each other but with all of God’s beloved people. Facing the fear and violence of this world, its easy to become polarized, to cling to our racial, ethnic, religious and political affiliations. But Jesus prays for our unity as a people of God. We are not called to be the same, but to recognize that we are all one people of God, regardless of our race, nationality, religion political affiliation. God calls us to unity, blessed by our differences. God calls us to relationship with God’s self and with each other. It is not easy to think in terms of unity with those who bring terror and death to the innocent. Yet, God is always calling us to unity with each other and with God’s self through Christ’s reconciling work on the cross and promise of new life in him. The mark of Christians everywhere is unity… not just among ourselves, but with all of God’s beloved people and with all of creation.