May 26-27, 2001, 7th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C
Far too often I think we complicate our faith. In today’s Gospel Jesus summarizes our faith down to one fundamental truth. Jesus prays that we all might be one as he and the Father are one. That is why he came as a human being; that is essence of the Good News we preach. Paul says that God’s plan is to bring all things into one under Christ. That is the whole plan. What is so amazing to me is that such an important aspect of our faith, the call to be one in Christ with God, is all but invisible in how we articulate our faith, if not how we practice it. I bet if I asked everyone in the parish to write down the 10 most important aspects of your faith, being one in Christ would not appear very often.
While it is amazing to me, it is not surprising. Our culture is filled with attitudes that are the very antithesis of unity. Our culture swims in the notion that success is tied to the failure of others. We have the popularity of TV shows like Survivor and The Weakest Link. On the scientific scene we have the popular, but scientifically unsound notion that evolution is fueled by competition among species. Over the past few weeks we were subjected to the political expression of this in Sen. Jeffords’ leaving the Republican party, on the national level, to a very disturbing politics of division here in our local Stow elections. But perhaps the biggest scandal, which stands in the way of bringing God’s plan into reality, is Christianity. We cannot even demonstrate this good news to the world. As Fr. Butler put it last Wednesday night, we are split East against West (Orthodox vs. Catholic) and North against South (Protestant vs. Catholic).
One of our parishioners, Jon French, sent me an email story this week that gets right to the point of God’s plan.
The father of a child with learning disabilities related this story about his son Shay. He prefaced the story by posing the question, “If God does everything perfectly, then how am I to understand why Shay cannot learn as fast as others, or understand the same as others?” His answer was this story.
He and Shay were passing a baseball field where some boys that Shay knew were playing. Shay asked his father if he thought the boys would let him play. Knowing that it would be a tremendous boost to Shay’s self image, he asked one of the boys if they would let Shay play. When none of the other boys gave him any indication of how they felt, this young man made his own decision and said, “We are in the bottom of the eighth inning and we are losing by 6 runs. I guess Shay can be on our team and we will try to get him up to bat in the ninth.” Shay’s team scored 3 runs in the bottom of the eighth but was still down by three. In the top of the ninth, they put Shay out in right field. Nothing came his way but Shay had a grin from ear to ear just being in the field.
In the bottom of the ninth, Shay’s team scored a run and then loaded the bases. With Shay next to bat, his team had the winning run on the bases. His father wondered if they would let Shay bat. They did, even though it was clear that a hit was impossible; Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly. The pitcher moved in closer and lobbed the ball underhand to Shay, who swung and missed by a mile. The pitcher moved even closer and lobbed it again. By some miracle, Shay connected and hit a slow grounder right back to the pitcher. All he had to do was throw to first base and his team would win. But instead, the pitcher threw the ball in a high arc out to right field. Everyone started yelling, “Shay, run to first base!” By the time Shay rounded first base and headed for second, the right fielder had the ball and could have easily thrown it to second for the game ending tag, but understanding what the pitcher had done, he threw it in a high arc over the third baseman’s head. The shortstop came over and pointed Shay at third and shouted, “Run to third!” As Shay rounded third and headed home, everyone on both teams and in the stands was yelling, “Run for home!” Shay stepped on home plate and was cheered as a hero for hitting a grand slam and winning the game.
With tears in his eyes, Shay’s father answered his own question about God’s perfection by saying that in that moment, both teams helped bring God’s plan to reality.
How differently would we look at things if we really believed that God wants us all to be one? That doesn’t mean that he wants us all to be the same but in all our differences, to be one, on the same team, cooperating not competing.
Maybe the question is not “Which party has the most power in the Senate?” but “How can we cooperate to move this country forward?”
Maybe the question is not “Who will get to heaven?” but “How soon will we all see the glory the Father gives to Christ?”
Maybe the question is not “Why can’t women be priests?” but “Why are only priests at the top of the hierarchy?”
Maybe a question for the new evangelization is not “How can we convert all Jews to Christianity?” but “How can we Christians be one with this people God has chosen as his own for all time?”
We say we believe in a church that is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. We pray that God’s kingdom come, his will that all be one in Christ be done on earth. My prayer today is that we really mean what we pray.