“That they may be one, as we are one.” These are Jesus’ words of farewell to his disciples and he repeats this prayer several times. When Jesus talks about oneness, what he has in mind is a complete, mutual indwelling: I am in God, God is in you, you are in God, we are in each other. There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual inter-abiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love. As Thomas Merton reflected, “We are already one.” We just need to start becoming what we already are. All that is absent is awareness. To be one with everyone and everything is to have overcome the fundamental optical illusion of our separateness. Awareness opens our eyes to the reality of our oneness, and our openness to the Spirit allows this awareness to transform us.
On Thursday, we celebrated the feast of the Ascension, a celebration of oneness. In the story of Christ’s ascension as told in Acts (1:9-11), angels appear next to the disciples as they gaze after the rising figure. The angels ask, “Why are you standing here staring up into heaven?” Most of Christianity has been doing just that, straining to find the historical Jesus “up there.” Where did he go? We’ve been obsessed with the question because we think the universe is divided into separate levels—heaven and earth. But it is one universe and all within it is saturated with the presence of God. The whole point of the Incarnation and Risen Body is the revelation that the Christ is here—and always was! The Ascension is the revelation of the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: earth and heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. Jesus didn’t go anywhere. He revealed himself as the universal omnipresent Body of Christ. That’s why the final book of the Bible promises us a new heaven and a new earth, not an escape from earth. (Revelation 21:1), We focused on “going” to heaven instead of living on earth as Jesus did—which makes heaven and earth one. It is heaven all the way to heaven. What we choose now is exactly what we choose to be forever.
Various sources: David Benner, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Richard Rohr