I am watching a DVD of one of The Great Courses, Myth in Human History. Professor Grant Voth, Monterey Peninsula College, is a great teacher. Dealing with creation myths, Professor Voth discusses one type of creation myth labeled world-parent myths. These are myths in which a primal pair is broken up. What was once one is now multiple and separate. As in Cain and Abel in genesis, violence often ensues.
You do not have to watch Faux News or any other news channel for that matter to know that we are broken, divided, separate, and often in conflict situations. The current politics in Washington is a politic of division—us versus them. Win-lose scenarios repeat themselves hourly.
Just consider the history of the League of Nations and the United Nations. One remedy for division is a world body that can function effectively to bring people together. Many Americans imbued with isolationism condemn any and everything that the UN does. Immigration is all about keeping the other out. Of course, there is a new twist. Last week a congressman spoke the real truth. We will not support immigration reform because we do not want Obama to get credit. Petty racism trumps the common good of immigrants who want to come here for a better life. Really, regrettably much of politics today is about the Black Man in the White House!
Maybe that is why we need to reflect on Jesus’ prayer in John 17:
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, I pray not only for them,
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. (Jn 17)
Can Jesus be for real? Did he come to restore original unity? Did he come to proclaim that love is the supreme operative human value? Read John 17 and the answers to these questions are clear—that all may be one. Wow! Revolutionary talk! We are being brought to perfection and note the last verse-Jesus considers every person to be a gift to him from the Father.
We are not used to this talk. Much of the division and divisiveness in the world stems from religion. Long after the Crusades, Muslims are still attacking and killing Christians and Christians are attacking and killing Muslims. As one Islamic leader told me, “Islamophobia is a cottage industry in America.” The Second Vatican Council taught that every religion has elements of truth which we are to honor. By honoring differences we groan toward unity. I did not say uniformity. Our goal is Jesus’ goal—that all may be one.
In his email for Mother’s Day, Richard Rohr, Franciscan, continues his teaching about the perennial philosophy which is also embedded in the great Franciscan transition. Pope Francis I, a Franciscan, was the feet of prisoners on Maundy Thursday. He even washed the feet of a Muslim woman. Get the impact of that. The Pope understands John 17. It mattered not that she was a Muslim and a woman. Vatican officials were hard pressed to explain why the Pope had dare veer from Church “teaching” on not washing the feet of women.
The perennial tradition is not just a metaphysical principle, but it’s also a psychological principle that allows us to find in ourselves something similar to and capable of actual union with Divine Reality. “It is not because you do not know the truth that I am writing to you, but rather because you know it already,” John says in his Letter (1 John 2:21). John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) called this “the univocity of all being.” In other words, we could speak of all being as having “one voice” and one consistent meaning, and like can know like. This provides a philosophical basis for mysticism and divine union, and is the pride of the Franciscan Order. Maybe it is why we have so many saints and mystics! (Richard Rohr, May 12, 2013)
Divine union is very much about restoring human unity. The driving force is love. Unity shows that God loves us and that we in the power of the Risen Christ can love one another.
We may have to do a little soul searching. Gandhi would have us ask, “Am I the unity that I seek to be?”
In his homily last Sunday, retired Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, extolled the way the early church handled the dispute over the circumcision of Gentiles (http://ncronline.org/blogs/peace-pulpit/first-disciples-create-model-dealing-contention-church).
Religion is meant to be inclusive, not exclusive. Jews and Greeks, men and women, gays and straights, haves and have-nots are all terms that denote insiders and outsiders. Religion can easily become a matter of who is in and who is out. But it need not be that way. Gumbleton says that the disciples understood the words Jesus spoke to them at the Last Supper and then resolved their differences in a non-violent manner. Note that Paul did not strike Peter but confronted him face to face. We have to pray, center, and meditate on the words of Scripture. We have to acknowledge differences and, at times, the best we can do is to agree to disagree. Nevertheless the directive in John 17 says that we have to talk across the aisle and work for the common good in spite of our differences.
That all may be one. Unity is possible. Pentecost will remind us that the Spirit of the Risen Christ is with us. As Luke Skywalker would say, “The ultimate force is with us.” Jesus has given us the glory Abba gave him so that they may be one, as Abba and Jesus are one.