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Oneness in the Trinity

Sunday, May 20, 2007
Seventh Sunday of Easter

Readings: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 96; Apocalypse 22:12-14,16-17,20; John 17:20-26

I was recently at an Ecumenical service marking the beginning of Christian Aid week. During the act of worship we addressed this prayer to God: ‘through Jesus, you created one Church. Although our liturgies may differ and our theologies vary, we are one in the body of Christ.’ True enough, but not on that account a position with which to be satisfied. It is perhaps more accurate, if less edifying, to say, ‘despite our differing beliefs, we are one…’

The work of ecumenism moves us towards the desired true and complete unity, and yet, on the other hand, the Baptised are already all one in Christ. How can we be one, if we believe different things, if we hold what seems to be a different faith?

The oneness granted through Christ goes beyond human fractions because it is a sharing in the one Spirit (1 Cor. 12.13). At the Last Supper, Jesus, who asks his Father to share their Spirit with the world, prays for unity: ‘may they all be one…’ but see in what way: 'Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you' (Jn 17.21).

Gods’ unity; God’s integrity is paramount. In Deuteronomy it is Israel’s defining statement of faith against the pagans: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE’ (Dt. 6.4). The prophet Isaiah hears God’s own affirmation: ‘Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, there is no other; by myself I swear it’ (Is. 45.22f).

But this oneness is not lonely; it is not self-serving but reciprocal. God’s cry ‘I am ONE’ (cf. Ex. 3.14) does not ring hollow in caverns of solitude. In the Father’s sending of his Son, God’s true loving oneness is revealed. In the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar, ‘in the existence of the obedient Son the mystery of the divine Trinity shines forth in its full brightness’. The Son is not obedient to himself but to another, through an eternal love which is the Spirit of God. And this could not be the absolutely free divine love, if the Son was not equal and one with the Father: ‘you are in me and I am in you’.

But the story does not stop at a testimony. He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22.20). God, the Three in One and One in Three, wishes us to be one with Him. This is behind God’s revelation of his divine life. Jesus the Word does not just manifest the glory of God, but makes it visible and brings us back with him to live in it. This is the oneness in the body of Christ for which Jesus prays: ‘I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me may they be so completely one that the world will realise that is was you who sent me’ (Jn 17.22f).

Yet, with these last words we see that we cannot escape the call to ecumenism and the healing of the divided followers of Christ. These last words of Jesus disclose and establish the goal of Christian unity in this life. If we realise the source for our integrity in the body of Christ in the oneness of the Trinity, the journey towards complete, visible oneness will manifest God's love to the world.

The unity for which we seek must be grounded in this unfathomable oneness of the Trinity into which we have been brought, ‘so that our joy may be complete’ (1 Jn 1.4).


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