The Holy Spirit as a teacher of unity
The many gifts of grace and the one spirit
In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul describes the life of the church there with the many different gifts of grace that can be found there and that are united in unity through the one spirit.
In a few days we have celebrate Pentecost. Can the Holy Spirit become our teacher to maintain and deepen our unity?
Again and again I am enthusiastic about the story of Pentecost in Jerusalem. The apostles spoke bravely and enthusiastically about Jesus, the risen one. And the Acts of the Apostles reports that all could understand them in their own language. How could a Roman, an Arab, or an Egyptian understand a Jew? One can quickly dismiss this as a miracle of the Holy Spirit. A miracle – I would agree with that, but I wouldn’t dismiss it, on the contrary. I would want to learn from this miracle. Can I do that too: speak in a language that the other understands?
The same language – and yet not understand (want to)
We’ve seen it in our own history: people use the same word (e.g. peace, freedom, human dignity) and mean something completely different. This gives rise to differences of opinion, conflicts, war.
A foreign language – and yet I can understand the other
But there is also the other. People want to approach one another, want to understand one another, because they are inspired by the same idea – perhaps also by the same spirit – and a community emerges. Pentecost is also possible today. Even today, God’s Spirit causes people to want and be able to understand one another, and thus leads them to unity.
You are my beloved son (beloved daughter)
The Holy Spirit is often referred to as the love that connects God the Father with the Son. This is shown very impressively at the baptism of Jesus. The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan is reported in all 4 gospels. And in all accounts the Spirit of God is mentioned, who came down from above in the form of a dove. And a voice said, This is my beloved son, in whom I am very pleased.
I have found my satisfaction in you. – This sentence expresses the deep, loving relationship between Jesus and his Father.
Take the story of Jesus’ baptism into your spiritual contemplation! Here are a few questions: Has God said this to you before? When? Directly or through someone else? In what words or in what way? – Did you speak this sentence to others? What is your experience with it?
All should be one
In addition to love, the topic of “unity” is an important topic in Jesus’ farewell speeches (Jn 15-17), from which we often hear in the Gospel in the weeks before Pentecost.
In his farewell speeches, in which Jesus also promised his disciples the Holy Spirit, Jesus prayed for the disciples: “All should be one, like you, Father, in me and I in you” (Jn 17:21). Jesus asks for the unity of his disciples, i.e. also for the unity of the church and of all her members. For him this is more than a pious wish. His request for unity has two goals:
so that the world may believe (Jn 17:21)
The Jesuit Alfred Delp once said it very clearly shortly before his execution: “If the Church once again expects the image of a quarreling Christianity, it is written off.” In other words: it is no longer credible. Conversely, Christians living in unity can make others thoughtful and believe in Jesus Christ.
So that they may see your glory (Jn 17:22, 24)
In the previous monthly lectures we saw how an effort and deepening of unity can change people’s lives for the better and thus make them happy. This can be seen most clearly in the area of reconciliation.
Nobody should be lost
There is another request for unity in Jesus’ farewell speeches. Jesus asks that all should be one (Jn 17:11). And he adds that no one has been lost (Jn 17:12). Jesus is referring to an earlier statement: “It is the will of him who sent me that I should not let any of those he gave me perish” (Jn 6:39).
This request of Jesus can basically be related to eternal life; in other words, Jesus wants all people to be saved and go to heaven.
But you can also relate this request to everyday experiences: I don’t want anyone to be dropped or written off. Jesus met people with this attitude. There were quite a few who were written off and avoided by the society of that time and also by the representatives of religion: tax collectors, the sick, strangers, lepers, adulterers. Nobody wanted to have fellowship with them, their unity was broken. Jesus turned to these people, often causing offense. But people felt that he did not write them off. In his eyes (i.e. in the eyes of God) these people were valuable. And this care has often changed her life.
Prelate Dr. Stefan Dybowski
May 10th, 2021 Monthly lecture St. Augustinus Monastery, Berlin-Lankwitz