That They May Be One Even As We Are One

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The glory that you have given to me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 17: 22-23

In his life, deeds, words, and impending death Jesus has revealed and continues to reveal the glory of the Father. This glory is the source and the milieu of the love and communion of his disciples with him, and so with the Father and with each other. The truth that Jesus calls us to live in is the truth of the glory of God. Everything that has life has its life in God, so to know the glory of God is to realize the communion that is the truth of things.

In verse 23, Jesus prays that the disciples and all who come to believe because of their word “may become perfectly one.” An alternative, and perhaps more revealing translation reads: “that they might be perfected into one.” (Francis J. Moloney, SDB, The Gospel of John, p. 479) We become ever more perfectly one as we allow the glory of God to permeate our lives, our work, our relationships. Our communion with each other is the work of God in and among us, which means that disunity is the result of our failure to work with God.

Earlier in John’s gospel we are afforded insight into the obstacles we place in the way of God’s glory being manifest on earth in our love for each other.

Nevertheless many of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it lest they be put out of the synagogue: for they loved human glory rather than the glory of God. 

John 12: 42-3

We all know of the experience of knowing a “truth,” of recognizing what is really being asked of us, and of failing to do or say it because we “love human glory rather than the glory of God.” Human glory is an urge to stand apart and over, to have others and the world “look up” to us. The glory of God is that which is “common to all.” It is the love by which Jesus is in the Father and the Father in him. This glory of God’s love is that by which the world is constantly being drawn together in the communion that Jesus had with the Father “before the world began.”

Perhaps every time we choose the glory of God over our own glory we are contributing to, “a more perfect union,” for we are not standing in the way of God’s drawing all into one in Christ. To live with others is enormously difficult. Every day we struggle with competing claims for glory between ourselves and others. Yet, by rejecting the compulsions of our desire for “human glory,” we allow in some small measure the manifestation of love and communion by which “the world may know” that Jesus has been sent in love by God and that God loves us all in common as he loves Jesus. Our love must be perfected in time not because we are not always and already united with God but because in our own willfulness we fail to live and reflect that love.

Christ prayed the highest prayer, namely, that all his beloved might be made perfectly one, even as he is one with the Father (Jn 17: 23)—not in the way that he is one single divine substance with the Father, for that is impossible for us, but in the sense of being one in the same unity in which he, without distinction, is one enjoyment and one beatitude with the Father in essential love.

Christ’s prayer is fulfilled in those who are united with God in this threefold way. They will ebb and flow with God and constantly stand empty in possession and enjoyment; they will work and endure and fearlessly rest in their superessential being; they will go out and enter in and find their nourishment both without and within; they are drunk with love and sleep in God in a dark resplendence.

  Jan van Ruusbroec, The Little Book of Clarification, III,B

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