7th Sunday of Easter
16TH May 2021
Year B – Psalter week 3
I find it interesting that the Church presents us, on this Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost, with a gospel passage that focuses upon the importance of unity. While we pray during these nine days, or time of ‘novena’, for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit to empower us in our mission as the apostles were empowered on the day of Pentecost, we are also praying for deeper unity with God and with one another as we receive the Holy Spirit. Unity and mission are inextricably linked. Indeed, unity is the foundation upon which any missionary activity builds, so if we are not united as the body of Christ, then we risk trying to build on sand, and any mission to draw others into our community would be undermined.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has an excellent section on unity, entitled ‘The Church is One’. It begins by explaining that Church unity is a gift already received from God, which has as its source the unity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: ‘The Church is one because of her source: “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.” The Church is one because of her founder: for “the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, … restoring the unity of all in one people and one body.” The Church is one because of her “soul”: “It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity.” Unity is of the essence of the Church: already given to us.’
So as baptised Christians, we are already united to one another because we are all members of the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, this free gift of unity is still something that we need to work at. I am reminded here, of St. Augustine’s exhortation when he speaks of this how every Christian is a member of the Body of Christ, and says, ‘Become what you are!’ So how can we enter more deeply into this gift of unity that we already share?
After explaining that the unity of the Church is made of a diversity of peoples and gifts, the Catechism goes on to mention some particular visible gifts that we have which help us to express and to deepen our unity. These are:
- The profession of one faith that we have received from the apostles. This, in fact, is why we recite the creed together every week. So, we share in what we believe.
- We engage in a common celebration of divine worship, especially when we celebrate the sacraments together. The reception of the sacraments draws us more deeply into the life of God and of the Church.
- We have as the Catholic Church the gift of apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders. So, our bishops, through the laying on of hands down the centuries, are successors of the apostles. The Pope, as the successor of St. Peter, has a particular role in being the visible sign of unity, and together with the bishops, exercises the duty of governing the church and of handing on faithfully the teachings of Jesus and applying them to our times.
The Catechism is also clear on the true source of any disunity among Christians when it states: ‘sin and the burden of its consequences constantly threaten the gift of unity.’ In speaking of our need to constantly work at unity, it goes on the say: ‘Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, . . . so that the world may know that you have sent me.”’
As we continue our daily prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our parish family, we pray not only for a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit and the gifts for mission, but also for a deeper living of the unity that the Holy Spirit brings, which will find expression in our faithfulness to God, and in the ways in which we love one another.
Let us continue the simple prayer of invocation to the Holy Spirit as we prepare for Pentecost:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.
 See Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraphs 813 to 829.
 CCC 813.
 CCC 814.
 CCC 820. Cf. John 17:21; Hebrews 7:25.
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
‘Let someone else take his office’.
Psalm 102(103):1-2, 11-12, 19-20
The Lord has set his sway in heaven.
1 John 4:11-16
Anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.
Father, keep those you have given me true to your name.
Sunday Message and Look
I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord;
I will come back to you, and your hearts will be full of joy.