Jesus’ Prayer that We May Be Like God in Unity, Seventh Thursday of Easter, May 12, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, New York, NY
Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Memorial of Blessed Bishop Alvaro del Portillo
May 12, 2016
Acts 22:30.23:6-11, Ps 16, Jn 17:20-26


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today as we continue our preparations for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we are provoked by today’s readings to examine the Holy Spirit’s work of unity. He is the personified loving union between the Father and the Son and he has been sent by the Father and the Son so that we might enter into that communion with God and with others, so that we might become one Body, one Spirit, in Christ.
  • Jesus prays in the Gospel that we might be as united with each other as Father and Son are united, something that’s impossible for us but not impossible for God. This communion of saints among the communion who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the Spirit’s principal work. Everything else is an explicitation of that mission. Jesus prays for the success of that Mission in today’s Gospel with insistence, begging him that we might be one so that the world might know that he was sent by the Father and that the Father loves us just as he loves him. That’s an extraordinary prayer that points to the Holy Spirit’s mission. The world will be convinced of Jesus’ presence and mission by the way we’re united with each other. The world will be convinced of God’s personal love for each of us by the way we’re united with each other. Our union, our Christian communion brought about by the Holy Spirit, is the most important element of the new evangelization. That’s why we pray for that unity at every Mass as well, uniting ourselves as Bride to Bridegroom, as Body to Head, praying for that gift.
  • We see the ugliness of disunity, of the lack of the Holy Spirit, in today’s first reading in the dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees about the Resurrection, and about the way so many of the Sadducees and Pharisees were not only fighting each other but against Paul and the proclamation of the Gospel.
  • Today the Church celebrates the feast of Blessed Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the one I like to call the patron saint of multitaskers and multiple hat wearers, and to whom I have a great devotion so that I might sanctify and get done the work that God has given me to do. Don Alvaro del Portillo was a Spanish engineer, priest, bishop, Vatican II giant, author, friend of popes and paupers, and chief collaborator and successor to St. Josemaria Escriva leading Opus Dei, which was founded in 1928 to help people achieve holiness in the midst of all their ordinary duties of life. I first heard about Don Alvaro— “Don” is the Spanish and Italian title for a secular priest — soon after he visited my hometown in 1988 to have a get together with thousands of Catholics at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. When I began college a few months later and told some fellow Catholics where I was from, they asked whether I had gone to see him. I had no idea who he was or what Opus Dei was, but I soon found out. And I’m happy I did. Over the course of time, Don Alvaro’s writings and words began to have a big impact on me, especially with regard to sanctifying the ordinary things of life. He had superb ability to give practical advice on how to unite one’s study and work to God and how to turn even occasionally enormous amounts of work into a unified prayer. When he was in his 20s, at a time when engineering was Spain’s most prestigious profession, Alvaro went for two engineering degrees at the same time, something that would be akin today to going to medical school and law school simultaneously. After he finished the first, he began to work full-time while completing the second. At the same time he was traveling as a dedicated layman all over Spain, studying and sleeping in train cars, to spread the supernatural vision of Opus Dei. After the Spanish civil war — during which Alvaro was imprisoned, mistreated and repeatedly in danger of death for his faith — St. Josemaria asked him whether he would consider studying to be a priest so that he could give spiritual care to fellow Opus Dei members. He agreed. While doing all his seminary studies and continuing his travels, he also obtained on the side a civil doctorate in Philosophy and Literature. After his ordination St. Josemaria asked him to go to Rome. There he built Opus Dei’s headquarters, worked on Opus Dei’s legal status, supervised its expansion throughout Italy, got a doctorate in canon law summa cum laude, founded, taught moral theology at and served as the first rector of what is now the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, and served as St. Josemaria’s confessor and right hand. During the Second Vatican Council, while continuing his other tasks, Don Alvaro was appointed to assist on the Council’s general congregation, as well as to serve on the Commissions for the Laity, States of Perfection, Media, Bishops and Clergy. He would eventually become the secretary of the Clergy Commission and the principal coordinator for writing Presbyterorum Ordinis, Vatican II’s decree on the priesthood. After the Council, he served on a staggering 13 different Vatican Congregations, Councils and Commissions, including a very time-consuming service to revise the Church’s canon law. He did all of this while guiding Opus Dei and its 75,000 members world-wide, helping and then succeeding St. Josemaria, promoting St. Josemaria’s writings and canonization, and working to establish Opus Dei as a personal prelature. I should mention that while doing all of this he was battling crippling headaches and various other health complications. He gave his secret once: “To multiply our time, we need to have more presence of God. Then we will work with greater peace and greater intensity and with more desire of doing things well.”
  • He kept his communion with God throughout his work, all of which he converted into prayer, and because of that he likewise sought to transform all of his interactions as a prayer for unity. He, like all members of Opus Dei, prayed a daily set of Latin prayers (“Preces”) which include:  Oremus pro unitate apostolatus. “Let us pray for the unity of the apostolate or mission of the Church.” Ut omnes unum sint, sicut tu Pater in me et ego in te: ut sint unum, sicut et nos unum sumus. Taken from Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: “That they all may be one, as you Father are in me and I in you: may they be one just as we are one.” Omne regnum divisum contra se, desolábitur. Et omnis cívitas vel domus divisa contra se non stabit.” Taken from Jesus’ words after he was accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and every city or house divided against itself will not stand” (Mk 3:24-25). He prayed for the unity that Jesus prayed for, because a divided house will contradict Christ’s mission and presence and not attract anyone to come to experience in communion the love of God. Blessed Alvaro offered all of his work, his lack of sleep, and his life for this end.
  • Today as we celebrate this Mass, we grasp that the great Sacrament of Unity is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. St. Thomas Aquinas used to teach that the res (effect) of the Sacrament of the Eucharist was not merely the transubstantiation of Bread and Wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood, but rather our becoming one Body, one Spirit, in Christ. To say Amen! as we come to receive the Lord Jesus is an act that means more than just recognizing Jesus’ divine presence. It means that we want what Jesus wants to do: bringing us into communion with Him and in that Communion into Communion with each other. To seek Communion with Jesus without seeking it with each other, with others, with the Church, is to eat and drink the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily. We see this in the early Church in Corinth, when they were wanting to celebrate Mass together but then to have their agape meal separately with no commingling or sharing between Jewish and Greek widows. Christ wants this Communion. He prayed for it during the first Mass. It’s, in a sense, his perpetual Eucharistic prayer. And with the Father, he not only sends the “Spirit graciously [to] make holy these gifts we have brought…  for consecration that they may become the Body and Blood of … our Lord Jesus Christ” but so that we “nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.” This is the means by which the world may continue to recognize the continued real presence of Jesus as the incarnation of God’s love, as that love and presence reigns in the midst of the Communion this great sacrament brings about! 


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ACTS 22:30; 23:6-11

Wishing to determine the truth
about why Paul was being accused by the Jews,
the commander freed him
and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene.
Then he brought Paul down and made him stand before them.
Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees,
so he called out before the Sanhedrin,
“My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees;
I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
When he said this,
a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees,
and the group became divided.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection
or angels or spirits,
while the Pharisees acknowledge all three.
A great uproar occurred,
and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party
stood up and sharply argued,
“We find nothing wrong with this man.
Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
The dispute was so serious that the commander,
afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them,
ordered his troops to go down and rescue Paul from their midst
and take him into the compound.
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage.
For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem,
so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1-2A AND 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia JN 17:21

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May they all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that the world may believe that you sent me, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 17:20-26

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”’