That’s what we are meant to be. That’s what Christ prayed very fervently just before he was arrested and before he completed his redemptive mission through his passion, death and resurrection. It was like his last and final wish for us! “That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us…,” Christ said. (Jn 17,21)
You can just imagine the implications of these words! It should be very clear to us that we are meant to be truly one with God first, sharing his very life and nature, before we can be one with everybody else.
Our being image and likeness of God is not just a matter of being a faithful copy of God. A copy can have its own existence independently of the original. Our relation with God is not like that. We are meant always to be with God.
In another parable, Christ somehow underlined this truth of faith about ourselves when he said that we are meant to be the branches that are organically attached to the vine who is Christ. (cfr. Jn 15) Apart or detached from him, we can only expect death and barrenness, even if in human and worldly terms, we may appear to be vibrant.
The unity that Christ speaks of is not merely some natural kind of unity, achieved through social, cultural or political forces and laws, but a unity of spirit, of mind and heart, much like the unity that exists between God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
This unity was already hinted about or prefigured in the Old Testament, like the Book of Isaiah, where we hear the words: “This people have I formed for myself. They shall show forth my praise.” (43,21)
It is somehow referred to also in the New Testament when Christ said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (12,32) Of course, St. Paul said it even more clearly: “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one member one of another.” (Rom 12,5)
Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The Church is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body.” (752)
We need to be aware of this truth about ourselves. Irrespective of our many differences and conflicts, we have to realize that we form one body, not in genetic, social, political or cultural terms, etc., but in the ultimate criterion of being image and likeness of God.
We have been made in his image and likeness and redeemed by Christ after we messed up the state of original justice in which we were created in Adam and Eve. We need to cooperate in Christ’s desire that we be ‘consummati in unum,’ that we may become perfectly one with him, as he is one with his Father.
To be sure, the unity spoken of here is not uniformity. It is not about building up a monolithic, rigid uniformity. It can tolerate, even encourage, a great variety of views and opinions, for these can only enrich and strengthen the unity Christ wants for us. We just have to learn how to handle this phenomenon that is somehow expressed in that American nation’s motto, ‘E pluribus unum,’ (one out of the many).*