That they may be one

Where there is Unity there is Light

What you see are four figures joining hands with the hands and feet touching creating the heart symbols; the heart being the universal symbol of love. Holding hands they also form a circle and in the circle is a candle with a flame of light. The symbolism is obvious: Where there’s unity there is love and where there is love there is light. You could extend the symbolism even further and say that its only when people are united are they capable of holding the light for each other.

The Gospel of today gives us an insight into the very heart of Christ’s prayer life and what is his desire for us as individuals and for us as a community: ‘That they may be one, so that the world may believe.’ History has shown in no uncertain terms that it’s a prayer that has seldom been heard. The many thousands of denominations that claim to be Christian testify to this and equally whenever we are in dispute with others or are divided within ourselves, that prayer still waits to be answered. Do you think that the fault of this unanswered prayer lies with the Father who is refusing to answer the prayer of his beloved Son? I would think not, but when we do think about that question the only obvious answer is that there are some prayers that we have to be the answer to ourselves and such a prayer for unity has to be one of them. For example if I pray, ‘Lord keep my family happy and make my home peaceful place.’ While the grace may come for that to happen, it needs my co-operation and the answer must largely come through me.

There is a story of two vast grain-growing communities in the Mid-West of America. Some dispute had happened between them in the far distant past and for generations there had been estrangement and bitterness. Whenever one of the younger ones would stray and any cross fertilization would take place the couple often found themselves rejected by both sides and would be forced to live elsewhere. There was just no tolerance between them and as always happens in such cases everything they didn’t like about themselves became projected onto the other whom they then saw as the ‘enemy.’

Then one day a young child went missing. She had strayed far into the long corn and got lost. Most of the community came out to help in the search and the neighbouring community were even prepared to lay aside their differences and organize a search from their side. A day went past with no success and then a sense of desperation set in. Someone got the idea of people from both sides holding hands and in so doing they would be able to cover a huge area at a time. Within the first hour the child was located but in such a weakened condition that she died shortly afterwards. The two communities looked at each other, utterly ashamed that it had taken the life of a young child to bring them to their senses, make peace and hold hands.

Unfortunately that is often how it is. Only a rude awakening makes us realize the futility and stupidity of all the ways we justify not talking to someone or keeping a standoff. Such disputes can be like a burden of energy that a vulnerable child or adult can pick up on and can so make them sick that they find an early grave. The testimony of all who have carried bitterness and resentment for too long is that it was a complete waste of precious time and energy – a burden of stupidity that was just a negation of life.

Jesus prayer for unity is one where he commissions us to in whatever way we can, and by whatever means possible to be the answer to is ourselves and he tells us that by being peace makers we express our true dignity as children of God.

Then there are some prayers that while we may cooperate with being the answer the answer still cant come from us. Last Monday I got a call to go down to the trawler in Rosslare Hbr where a KQ man Dom Sinnott had been lost off two nights before. The crew needless to say were a dejected bunch having lost not just their friend and comrade but the best skipper in Ireland or the UK. Not knowing where he had gone over the search area could stretch from here to Wales and down to Landsend. In the wheelhouse we prayed for a miracle that his body would be recovered and that the Sinnott family would not be burdened with another missing member. We specifically invoked the Angel Raphael who is the patron of successful journeys and happy reunions to guide the search. It was literally praying for a miracle because looking for a body below the waterline in such a vast expanse of sea is like locating a pinprick on a dartboard the size of Leinster. I came away strangely confident that our prayer had been answered and thinking he would be picked up by his own boat and crew. Well he wans’nt. But the skipper of another boat nearly forty miles away spotted his body in the water and aided its recovery. I was privileged to officiate at his funeral today and everyone there had to acknowledge that our being there was nothing short of a first class miracle.

I have some sense and would even dare to believe that the mystery of Fiona’s disappearance will soon be resolved as well because it is such a burden on that family who have known so much heartache and heartbreak ever since. To that end I would ask you all to pray and dare to believe because if Doms body could be found in that vast area of sea I have no doubt that Fionas body can still be recovered even after so many years. My prayer in this regard would no longer be one of asking for its recovery but much more of authority, commanding it to happen; that the truth that is known may be spoken and that all that needs to come to light may no longer remain hidden.

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