|Jesus wants his followers to be united. So many of them today are divided. What can we learn about the unity Jesus desires from these readings?
In the first reading we see the Sadducees and Pharisees divided by different beliefs. To the Sadducees, there were no spiritual beings and no resurrection of the body. Pharisees believed otherwise. Can people be united in their faith who believe such radically different things? Probably not. Every Sunday we Catholics recite the Nicene Creed. It states the basics of our faith. Can people who do not believe in the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son be united with those of us who confess this truth? Probably not. There is not likely to be unity where the most basic teachings of the faith are affirmed by some and denied by others. This does not imply any animosity between the sides; it’s simply a fact that there is not going to be unity between them.
People who agree on certain teachings can be divided because of personal animosity or bad attitudes. In the first reading, two groups disagreed over doctrine and this led to such hatred that a person in the middle could be torn to shreds. This almost happened to the apostle. However, I have known people who disagreed over almost nothing but were divided in spite of everything they agreed upon. Actually, the word “heretic” originally referred to people who were divisive because of their attitude. It later came to be used for someone who divided the Church because of their false teaching. Arius may have actually been a nice guy but he was a heretic because his false teaching about Jesus divided the Church for hundreds of years. On the other hand, can you be a thoroughly orthodox Catholic, one who believes absolutely everything the Church teaches, and be a heretic? We have all probably known people like that. They are orthodox in their beliefs but poison wherever they go. They will divide anything and everything in their path.
Jesus teaches us something else about unity, too. He wants his disciples to be one even as he and the Father are one. Now, the Son and the Father are one God but they are also unique. They are two separate persons within the Trinity. Do you have to be like me for us to have unity? Or, can we be one in faith, and yet each of us our unique selves? Unity implies many things but not uniformity. Disciples of Jesus are not made with a cookie cutter.
Jesus wants the world to know that he was sent by God, the Father. He states fairly clearly that this will not happen if his disciples are divided. Unity of believers is a powerful statement to the world that Jesus brings the love of God. So, I am challenged to learn the teachings of Jesus and his Church. I am also challenged to dwell in God’s love so that I will not be a poison in the midst of the people of God. When we all grow in this way, Jesus says that the world will know that he was sent to the world by his Father. The proof of it will be in their midst in the form of loving, united, followers of his.