Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter
The scriptures this morning contrast the false unity of the fallen world with the unity of the Holy Spirit.
The Pharisees unite against the Sadducees and the Sadducees against the Pharisees. Then the two unite together to murder Paul… Just as former rivals Herod and Pilate became friends the day they together killed Jesus.
Paul shrewdly escapes his predicament by aligning himself with the Pharisees. He reminds the two rival groups of the conflict between them, the conflict they were trying to resolve by uniting against him.
Such unity springs from the spirit of the Accuser. It shows up in our world as tribalism, nationalism, faction, rivalry, envy and hatred in every form.
It always seems to have an urgent air-tight case against someone, and thinks in stark black/white terms with no room for nuance or complexity, no time for multiple perspectives or approaches.
It is a unity imposed from outside, in accord with a human storyline.
Jesus, by contrast, prays, not that one side may unite against another, or all unite against one common scapegoat, but that ALL may be one with the oneness he shares with the Father.
What is this oneness, this unity? how is the Father in the Son and the Son in Father?
Each day we pray in the liturgy to the Father through Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is the love of the Father for the Son, of the Son for the Father …and the mutual love of them both; he is the offspring and overflow of this love that spills over into the gratuitous creation of the world…and the new creation in grace at Pentecost.
The unity of the Holy Spirit expresses the unity of the divine nature …which is equally plurality: the triune God is just as much three as one; not three that later resolves into one or one that breaks out into three but both at once.
Each divine person gives himself completely to the other and makes way for the uniqueness and distinction of the other.
The oneness of God grounds and supports the distinction of each Person as the distinction of Persons makes up the unity.
Far from a unity based on exclusion, the oneness of God is identical with making way for the uniqueness of the other.
Where the unity of the world is built on (unwilling) victims, the unity of the Holy Spirit comes into the world through the supreme sign of contradiction, Christ willingly crucified to save the world.
On the cross, Jesus contradicts and unmasks all the powers and principalities, all the narrow ideologies that set themselves up in place of the unity that can only come from the transcendent God.
The false unity of the world built on exclusion, that impersonates the unity of the Holy Spirit, is a greater threat to true unity than this or that personal sin…
…as the Sadducees and Pharisees represented a far greater threat to Jesus than the sins of tax collectors and prostitutes.
The unity of the Holy Spirit—open, expansive, inclusive, transcending human reason— is less like the unity in a church building where diverse pillars meet in the vault above, and more like the unity of a vine: one stalk, many branches sprawling out all over… toward the one light of the sun.
As branches in the true Vine, pruned by the word, may we bear much fruit and so give glory to the Father, through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.