On Holy Thursday, the day on which Christ gave us his body to eat and his day to drink, Jesus, acting as High Priest on behalf of his people, offers himself as the sacrificial victim to take away the sins of the world. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus reveals the Father to us: “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the
world” (John 17:6). He prays for unity among his disciples:
Everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.” (John 17:10-11).
In this prayer, and elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus expresses his unity with the Father. In his last supper discourse, Jesus tells Thomas: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Earlier, Jesus declares to the crowds in Jerusalem: “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).
As a Jew, Jesus prayed the Shema twice a day and was surely influenced by it. This prayer begins with a proclamation of faith in God’s oneness: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” (Dt. 6:4). In the second of two blessings that precede its recital, a person asks God, to “unify our hearts and love and fear your Name” and, further, that people may “unify God with love”—that is, “to proclaim God’s oneness.” Jesus may well have prayed the beautiful Alenu prayer that concludes the three daily services, as it may date from the time of the Second Temple:
For the kingdom is yours and you will reign for all eternity in glory as it is written in your Torah, the Lord will reign for all eternity. And it is said: The Lord will be King over all the world—on that day the Lord will be One and his name will be One.”
Jesus, of course, enjoyed a unique relationship with his Father. Still, he calls us also to be one—one with God and one with each other. We can in no way become God. But we can be one with God in the sense of the command to “love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Dt. 6:5). We become one with God by doing the will of God. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane: “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Mt. 26:42). And, we pray, in Jesus’ words: “Your will be done on earth as in heaven” (Mt. 6:9). We are one with each other when we fulfill the second part of the greatest command, expressed by a scribe in Luke 10:27: “to love your neighbor as yourself.”
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.