IT means â€˜that they may become perfectly oneâ€™ in Latin.Â The expression appears in the priestly prayer of Christ as narrated in the gospel of St. John. (cfr 17,23) It goes together with another famous expression, â€˜ut unum sintâ€™ (that they may be one), which has been used as title of one of the encyclicals of St. Pope John Paul II that talked about ecumenism.
It expresses Christâ€™s ardent desire that we be one with him, for that was his purpose for becoming man. The redemption undertaken by Christ was meant to make us one with Christ, living members of his mystical body which is now referred to as the Church.
The unity that Christ speaks of is not merely some natural kind of unity, achieved through social, cultural or political forces and laws, but a unity of spirit, of mind and heart, much like the unity that exists between God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
This unity was already hinted about or prefigured in the Old Testament, like in the Book of Isaiah, where we hear the words: â€œThis people have I formed for myself. They shall show forth my praise.â€ (43,21)
It is somehow referred to in the New Testament when Christ said: â€œAnd I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.â€ (12,32) Of course, St. Paul said it even more clearly: â€œSo we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.â€ (Rom 12,5)
Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: â€œThe Church is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christâ€™s Body.â€ (752)
We need to be aware of this truth about ourselves.
Irrespective of our many differences and conflicts, we have to realize that we form one body, not in genetic, social, political or cultural terms, etc., but in the ultimate criterion of being creatures and children of God.
We have been made in his image and likeness and redeemed by Christ after we messed up the state of original justice in which we were created in Adam and Eve. We need to cooperate in Christâ€™s desire that we be â€˜consummati in unum,â€™ that we may become perfectly one with him, as he is one with his Father.
To be sure, the unity spoken of here is not uniformity. It is not about building up a monolithic, rigid uniformity. It can tolerate, even encourage, a great variety of views and opinions, for these can only enrich and strengthen the unity Christ wants for us. We just have to learn how to handle this phenomenon that is somehow expressed in that American nationâ€™s motto, â€˜E pluribus unum,â€™ (one out of the many).
This concern for building up this â€˜consummati in unumâ€™ is one strong reason why we have to care for one another. In other words, we have to cultivate a strong sense of apostolate. A Christian believer is by definition an apostle also. No one is actually exempted from this.
The apostolate can always be done even in the worst of conditions and situations, because it is first of all a matter of attitude, of spirit. Everyone has to be concerned about the spiritual health of others more than anything else.
Or better said, our other worldly concerns should be subordinated to the ultimate spiritual and supernatural end that would comprise the unity that Christ has in mind. We should be wary when we tend to put into conflict our mundane concerns with our spiritual and supernatural goal.
In whatever mundane concern we have, be it personal, family, professional, business or political, the apostolic dimension should be a salient feature. Ignoring this apostolic dimension can only mean that we are not handling our temporal affairs properly.
This apostolic concern should start and end in the personal level even as it has to extend to all aspects and dimensions of our life. It cannot and should not be carried out institutionally if it is not first of all and always done personally.
There certainly is a great need to train everyone about apostolate. But it should always begin with personal friendship where confidence of people can be gained. Itâ€™s only then that we can aspire to contribute greatly to achieving this â€˜consummati in unum.â€™
We have to learn to be mindful and thoughtful of everyone. To be realistic, we have to make daily apostolic plans. (By Fr. Roy Cimagala)