The Communion of Saints

Union

The Communion of Saints
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, “Father, . . . I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one. I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” —John 17:1, 20-26 [1]

This beautiful prayer for union is from Jesus’ Last Supper address to his disciples. It might be the highest level of mystical teaching in the entire New Testament. Here Jesus connects everything: he in his Father, the Father in you, you in God, God in him, God in the world, and you in the world. It’s all one.

I think this is the core realization of every saint. Saints see things in their connectedness and wholeness. They don’t see things as separate. It’s all one, and yet like the Trinity, it is also different. What you do to the other, you do to yourself; how you love yourself is how you love your neighbor; how you love God is how you love yourself; how you love yourself is how you love God. How you do anything is how you do everything.

Faith is not simply seeing things at their visible, surface level, but recognizing their deepest meaning. To be a person of faith means you see things—people, animals, plants, the earth—as inherently connected to God, connected to you, and therefore, most worthy of love and dignity. That’s what Jesus is praying for: that you could see things in their unity, in their connectedness.

I will go so far as to say that the more you can connect, the more of a saint you are. The less you can connect, the less transformed you are. If you can’t connect with people of other religions, classes, or races, with your “enemies” or with those who are suffering, with people who are disabled, with LGBTQ folks, or with anyone who is not like you—well, to put it very bluntly, you’re not very converted. You’re still in the kindergarten of faith. We have a lot of Christians who are still in kindergarten, walking around the world with their old politics and economics. They have not allowed the Risen Christ to fully transform their lives. Truly transformed individuals are capable of a universal recognition. They see that everything is one.

You don’t go to heaven; you learn how to live in heaven now. And no one lives in heaven alone. Either you learn how to live in communion with the human race and with all that God has created, or, quite simply, you’re not ready for heaven. If you want to live an isolated life, trying to prove that you’re better than everybody else or believing you’re worse than everybody else, you are already in hell. You have been invited—even now, even today, even this moment—to live in the Communion of Saints, in the Presence, in the Body, in the Life of the eternal and eternally Risen Christ.

Gateway to Silence:
We are already in union with God.

References:
[1] John 17:1, 20-26, New American Standard Bible.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Seeing Is Not Always Recognizing,” homily, May 8, 2016, https://cac.org/seeing-not-always-recognizing/.

Image Credit: Early Autumn (detail), Qian Xuan (1235-1305), 13th century, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Numbers only; no punctuation

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