We continue to reflect on the prayer of our Lord in Chapter 17 of the Gospel of St. John. As St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, the prayer is divided into three parts, the prayer of our Lord for Himself, followed by one for His Apostles, and concluding with one for the Christian people (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 17, Lecture 1-6). Beginning in verse 20, our Lord expands His petition to all who will hear the Apostles preach. “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 also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:20-21).
Unity in the Body of Christ is the sign to the world of the authenticity of what is preached. The unity of “those who will believe” in the Lord will be the standard by which the world judges whether to believe in the Lord. “[T]hat they may all be one… that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).
This is a unity rooted in genuine humility. To profess faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ, means that we embrace what He taught, that we put aside our own interpretations and prejudices and assent to the truth as He reveals it. There is no personalistic self-absorption here. The goal is to “be brought to perfection as one” (John 17:23) for the purpose of having the world know that the Father sent the Son (cf. John 17:23). In this unity is true love, the love that only the Father can give to unite (cf. John 17:23). Everything—absolutely everything—should work to fulfill this prayer of Jesus Christ, “that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (John 17:26).