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. (Jn 17)
Merton has helped me understand John’s Gospel better, especially the mystical aspects of the Last Supper discourses. Until this Easter season, I did not do much serious lectio on these discourses. They seem to be repetitive and rambling. Now, they are starting to make sense.
I see two key words in today’s reading as we prepare for the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost—one and glory.
Merton initially entered the monastery with Thoreau in one pocket, John of the Cross in the other pocket and his Bible opened to the Apocalypse. Merton eventually discovered Julian of Norwich from whom he got the concept of one-ing. Julian wrote in Revelations of Divine Love:
Thus in our creation, God All Power is our natural Father, and God All Wisdom is our natural Mother, with the Love and the Goodness of the Holy Spirit —who is all one God, one Lord. And in the knitting and in the one-ing, He is our most true Spouse, and we are His beloved Wife and His fair Maiden. With this Wife He is never displeased, for He says: “I love thee and thou lovest me, and our love shall never be separated in two.” (Ch. 58)
We are all one. Merton’s mystical experience on the corner of Fourth and Walnut (now Muhammad Ali) reveals a deep understanding of the concept of one-ing. Iin Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Merton wrote:
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream. Not that I question the reality of my vocation, or of my monastic life: but the conception of “separation from the world” that we have in the monastery too easily presents itself as a complete illusion: the illusion that by making vows we become a different species of being, pseudo-angels, “spiritual men,” men of interior life, what have you.
. . .
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake.
I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
. . .
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift.
How glorious it is that we are all members of the human race in which Jesus the Christ became incarnate. We are all one. If just we realized this. Confronting racism, Merton said, “There is only one race—the human race.” “We accept each person as Christ.”
The doxa—glory—of God is the image of God, the very presence of God in our being, in our hearts so to speak. Jesus give us this glory, this stamp, this seal of God’s presence. God dwells within each of us as the Ground of our Being.
Merton learned from the Eastern mystics in the church the concept of divinization. Jesus became human so that we might become divine, so that the doxa, the persons we really are in God—can come forth. At Fourth and Walnut, Merton saw people “walking around shining like the sun.” He saw the doxa, the glory, the image of God within them. We are called to become one with God, with one another, and with creation.
On Pentecost we will once again be renewed by the Hoy Spirit who is the Love that is “knitting” and “one-ing” us. Come, Holy Spirit, Renew our hearts. Let us be one. Let us see your glory in all others and in creation. Let us come to new life in You.