That We Might All Be One
One of the gifts that I cherish more and more as a priest is the pledge of prayers for me by others. Leadership can be lonely. Ministry can be so rigorous. It is heartening to know that people are praying for me. I take comfort when someone says, “Father, we are praying for you.” It is just as consoling to receive a spiritual bouquet and the pledge of Masses being offered for my special intentions.
In nearly 32 years of being a priest, I have not only felt the prayers of others, but I have also benefited from them immensely. I can’t tell you how many times in ministry I have said something and wondered, given its profundity, if I actually said it. In those inspiring moments, I have come to see that it is not me but God’s grace working through me. I also believe it is the fruit of many prayers said on my behalf.
During this final week of Easter, the Gospel for the daily readings comes from the 17th chapter of John. This section is often referred to as “the great priestly prayer of Jesus.” At the heart of this prayer is a petition that Jesus places before the Father for unity. He prays, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:20-21).
What is noteworthy about this passage is that Jesus is praying for us. Even now, in this time, Jesus is praying for us. His prayer remains that we might be one.
Has there ever been a time, in recent memory, when we have been in greater need of this prayer? Due to the pandemic, our lives have become scattered, divided and separated. Elderly parents are unable to be with their children. These grandparents cannot hug, let alone see, their grandchildren. Classmates have been unable to be together in the classroom or on the playground. Graduations have not been happening in a customary way. Co-workers are separated by the fact that some now work from home or have been furloughed. Sports teams cannot train together. Priests have not been able to interact with their flock regularly. Above all, so many of our faithful still are unable to receive Our Lord in the holy Eucharist due to the restrictions set forth as a result of the pandemic.
Indeed this is a time of great separation. Disunity is one of the great weapons of the devil. There is nothing the devil delights in more than separating us from God and one another. The way that we are living now is counter to the way that we are supposed to live as brothers and sisters.
As we navigate through this tough time, there are three things we need to keep in mind. First, this time of being scattered from one another is temporary. Actually, we can look upon it as a fast that will eventually end. We just don’t know when that will be. Second, we remain members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Even though we may lack proximity from others, we, through our Christian baptism, remain members of Christ’s body. Finally, in the midst of this unprecedented time, Jesus continues to pray with us and for us, that we might all be one.
It is certainly reassuring knowing that people are praying for us. To know that Jesus is praying for us is beyond words. Thank you, Jesus!
FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.