Unity Happens When We Walk Together | Word from the Shepherd No. 163

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year C
Neh. 8:2-10; 1Cor. 12:12-30; Lk. 1:1-4;4:14-21

Bonding, merging and  uniting are the deepest longings of mankind. It is seen as natural tending towards one another or as a deep search in all of us for that oneness. Narrowly speaking, it is often reduced to uniformity, homogeneity, purity of race, culture or religion. There are higher and noble forms and expressions of this chase for oneness. We have Bhutan,  measuring the nation’s well-being in terms GNH (Gross National Happiness) instead of GNP (Gross National Product), or movements that gives value to unity in diversity. What is salient is this: they see complementarity and authenticity as the basis for bonding.

The readings today highlight this call to oneness, to re-connect by rebuilding relationships, families, communities and the People of God. There are 4 human sharings that unify and unite us, into one people: shared human history, shared scriptures, shared symbols and shared destiny.

  1. Shared Human History: it is about journeying, living and struggling as a people, a nation and building a place called home or homeland. Nehemiah, Ezra and the Israelites exiles in Babylon, once a free nation, with free worship and free rule, were now slaves and subject to foreign rule. With Cyrus, they were freed to return, rebuild and restore their Jerusalem. Sharing in their common history, their story of slavery to freedom, destruction and construction, ruins to rebuilding – bonded them for the Return.
  2. Shared Scripture: The Word of God, which was thought lost, was found. The finding of the sacred books caused the exiles to assemble, with Ezra the priest opening, reading, translating, instructing and declaring that day sacred. The people heard, wept, shared and celebrated. The word, the prophecies moved them to worship the Lord of the Word. God’s Word forms the minds and hearts, and fills the hearers and believers with the Vision and Mission of God for His own. They repented and returned to becoming God’s People again.
  3. Shared Symbols: Images have transforming power. They can influence our thinking, our feeling and our action. Paul presents to the Corinthian community, to corporate image or symbol, that speaks a thousand words. “The Body and The Many Parts” reflected the Church of Christ – one, holy and  apostolic; a oneness that depended on recognition, acknowledgement, and knowing each other and our place in the Body. Divisive and competitive spirit destroys oneness, unity and integrity of persons and community. There are many symbols or images down through church history. But are a few are evergreen, relevant for all times.
  4. Shared Destiny: Jesus announced the One Mission, the One Spirit and the One Kingdom. At the synagogue in  Capernaum, in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, He declared his Mission to the poor, the captives, the blind and the downtrodden. It was an outreach to the fringes, the peripheries, the forgotten and the voiceless. That was His destiny, and that’s our destiny. Common action with common good moves mountains. To realise the Kingdom of God in our midst and times, self-giving, self-forgetfulness,  social responsibility and social mission agenda are essentials. Strangely, a bigger other-centred agendas drive us to find our authentic oneness, beyond race and religion.

Weary from his journey, Jesus does not hesitate to ask the Samaritan woman for something to drink. His thirst, however, is much more than physical: it is also a thirst for encounter, a desire to enter into dialogue with that woman and to invite her to make a journey of interior conversion. Jesus is patient, respectful of the person before him, and gradually reveals himself to her. His example encourages us to seek a serene encounter with others. To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity. Unity grows along the way; it never stands still. Unity happens when we walk together.” (Pope Francis, 15th Jan. 2015)