Today’s Gospel: John 17:20-26
I try to pry out of my teenage daughter what she learns each week in her religious education class. Fourteen-year-olds will tell you nothing, if you let them. “We had to think about what makes us happy, and write it in our prayer journals.” I wondered what she might have written about. Starbucks? Her best friend? Makeup? An endless supply of sugar? Finally, instead of wondering, I just asked.
“You don’t have to tell me, if you don’t want to,” I made sure she understood, “but what did you write? What makes you happy?” She did not hesitate in sharing. “I wrote that what makes me happiest is when the whole family is all together, having fun. Like at Christmas.” I knew the exact moment she was talking about. It was well after the gifts and the dinner, and late into the evening, when the entire family, grandparents, cousins, and siblings, all crammed around the kitchen table, and played board games. She has talked about this moment before. “Did you see how he was laughing?” she would ask me, eyes wide and a big smile. She was referring to her big brother, whom she loves fiercely, who was in a season of life where we saw very little of him; where we heard little laughter. Because this happens in families. Kids grow up, and try to find their way, and big families suddenly feel smaller, and bedroom doors stay closed more than open, and ear buds go in ears, and well….what once felt like one, starts to feel like lots of little separate pieces. And my daughter? She longed for one.
In Christ’s final words before His Passion, He refers to us being one three times. And He prays this out loud to the Father. He prays for us. He prays for us to be one, just as He is in the Father and the Father in Him. He prays that we will come to know Christ personally, so that we can remain one forever, and ever.
When my family sat around the kitchen table that Christmas night, what made us one was not that we had no disagreements. It was not that we all believed the same things, and agreed on all of the same issues, or even liked each other. It was that we loved one another, despite our differences. It was that in that moment, we were able to love in the midst of conflict, despite present trials. We were one because we loved for no other reason other than the fact that we were a family. A family loved by God. A God loved by Jesus. And a Son loved by His Father. We were one.
And maybe Jesus was not playing board games at the table that night of the Last Supper, but I can’t help but think that the motley crew of men He had drawn to Himself were not all that different from our own motley crews, our own families. And that each of our missions should be of one singular motive: to go on out and to spread the love. To love one another, as the Father and Son love; to love without boundaries, to love beyond measure, to love sacrificially, so that we can all live as one.
And it is not easy to do this. But as true Christians, it is what we are called to do. Cheering on unity, and choosing to love, must be more than a bumper sticker we slap on our car and drive around town with. It starts with an out-loud prayer to our righteous Father. It starts with a personal conversation with God and a desire for real, self-less love; the kind of love that fans the flame of unity, breaks down barriers, gathers all those tiny pieces and glues them back into one.
How can I pray better this week, bridging gaps and putting back together what the world tries so hard to divide?
Righteous Father, I praise You for the Trinity and for your example of perfect love that leads to the unity You desire for the world – please increase Your love in my heart. Amen.
Copyright 2018 Laura Phelps
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