Homily May 25th, 2023

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter – Jn 17:20-26

In today’s Gospel Jesus begins by asking His Father for the gift of unity for all believers. This unity has a supreme importance, as it reflects the unity of the Father and Son. Furthermore, this unity brings about three effects: first, it makes us holy, “that they may be brought to perfection as one,” second, it reveals Jesus Christ as sent from the Father, “that the world may know that you sent me,” and, thirdly, it reveals the Father’s love “and that you loved them even as you loved me.” This unity is such an important characteristic of the Church that we proclaim that Church as “one” in the Creed, and Saint Augustine even used to call the Church “the Unity.”[1] On the opposite end of the spectrum, then, we have division. Fulton Sheen writes that the word “diabolic” comes from the Greek dia and ballein, meaning “to tear apart,”[2] that is, to divide, and this makes complete sense, since if Jesus wants unity, then Satan wants division.  

Division isn’t simply a problem for the Church at large: it’s a problem that can also affect the smaller communities of the Church. Pope Saint John Paul the Second said that “Unity can only be the fruit of a conversion to Christ. . . .  Such a conversion must be profound and include the entirety of the members in the many aspects of their lives, in such a way that unity truly comes about.”[3] In other words, unity comes about when we are holy, when we give ourselves entirely to Christ and to the service of His people. Pope Francis spoke of the many ways that we as individuals, and particularly as religious, can work against the unity that Christ so earnestly desires.[4] We can consider three: envy, aversion, and gossip:

First, “envy is the sadness which we feel on account of the good that happens to our neighbor.” Peter Kreeft wrote wisely that although envy “is not the greatest sin, [but] it is the only one that gives the sinner no pleasure are all. . . .  It causes nothing but pain and sorrow.”[5] Envy stems from pride, but can be combatted by remembering that what is given to one of us, is given to all of us, be it a talent, a skill, a gift, anything.

Secondly, aversionis when we deliberately avoid someone because we don’t like something about them.  Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote that “there are, of course, no enemies in the Carmel; but, after all, we have our natural likes and dislikes. We may feel drawn towards one Sister, and may be tempted to go a long way round to avoid meeting another. Well, Our Lord tells me that this is the Sister to love and pray for, even though her behavior might make me imagine she does not care for me. ‘If you love them that love you, what thanks are to you? For sinners also love those that love them.’ And it is not enough to love; we must prove our love. Naturally one likes to please a friend, but that is not charity, since sinners do the same.”

Gossip, writes Saint John Vianney, is like the worm that eats the most beautiful of flowers and leaves behind its slime. In other words, it robs us of the joy that we could have from enjoying the good deeds of others, and instead gives the worst possible meaning to everything. In the end, we end up becoming miserable ourselves.

Let us pray, in a particular way through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, for the grace to always work to become saints, so we can help bring about that unity that Jesus so earnestly desires.

[1] E.g. Letter 185.

[2] Fulton Sheen says this in Peace of Soul, I think. The exegesis is his own.

[3] John Paul II, “Particular Synod of Bishops of the Netherlands,” L’Osservatore Romano, 12 (1980) 65.

[4] Wednesday, 27 August 2014.

[5] Back to Virtue, 122.



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