Finding Interior “oneness”
by Sister Francis Marie, O.C.D.
Every moment of every day, the Lord is pursuing us – lovingly calling out to us. Most days, we are not conscious of His loving invitation inviting us to draw closer to Him. Our world is so full of distractions, activities and temptations that we miss His invitation. At our Carmelite retreat centers, thousands of people, groups of all ages and cultures, take time to be present – consciously – to the Most High God. They intention¬ally shut out the noise of the world in order to hear His voice – to move out of our frenetic, noisy, clamorous, amazingly wonderful world to be alone in silence and solitude with God. What is the desire of these brave souls? They want to meet God personally – to encounter Him Who is calling individually to them, seeking a deeper union with them.
These people are brave souls because it takes courage to welcome and embrace a love that is the all-consuming and unrelenting fulfillment of our deepest longings. It takes courage to expose oneself totally and completely to someone you can see only with interior sight. It takes courage to allow this fiery love to purify and transform into the interior oneness for which we have all been created. It takes courage because it is so personal and so very real.
This is the deepest reality – that we were created for deep, profound union with God, and that we actually experience and move in this union now. Different journeys, different gifts, different depths of union – but they are all the same unity. In our early religious education, we learn that we were created in the image and likeness of God. This is what gives us our sacred dignity. We also know that the Holy Trinity is the most complete Oneness, and somehow we were created to participate in this. Thus, it makes sense, that we were created for oneness – for unity. This unity takes on different expressions; interior unity or oneness exploding out into an external unity we call communion.
Through our Carmelite-sponsored retreats, a sacred mission we Sisters have been given, this succulent fruit of interior oneness or unity is offered to each soul. God holds it before us, and we are free to pluck it from the branch held in the hand of the Divine Master. This offering is before us every moment of our existence, but during a time of spiritual retreat, we are more attuned and open to receive it.
This sounds beautiful – and enticing – but what is interior wholeness? Because we are complex beings striving for the integration of the physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual elements within ourselves, the answer can seem too simple. In fact, it is simple. Ultimately, our inner oneness, our inner unity, is accomplished through God’s continual, transforming action until our entire being is united completely to the will of God. Although we cannot fully comprehend this truth, we know it to be true. This means that all the activities and functions of our being are completely in union with Him. Simple, yes; easy, no. Unity within one’s soul can occur only by being brought into His Oneness, which heals our inner brokenness, the broken and divided fragments of ego and self-seeking. His Oneness creates the wholeness of the human person He created us to be. We cannot be one except through Jesus Christ.
“Wholeness” or being “whole” is a word that helps capture the idea of inner unity. If someone hands us an apple, we can see that it is whole. All parts are perfectly in order. It is all together – one. If someone cuts it in half or in segments, we can see clearly that it is no longer whole. Its essence is still that of an apple, but it is only part of the apple. We were created to be whole, not separate segments of ourselves.
We can study these ideas more deeply through the masters of metaphysics. More importantly, the Lord “puts us back together” through the incidents and relation¬ships within our daily lives and even more profoundly through our retreat experiences. Of course, this is a journey – a journey of “relationship” that does not end but finds its completion and fulfillment in Heaven. Our relationship with the Lord does not change when we attend a spiritual retreat. Yes, we do experience Him on a deeper level, but that is because we are alone with Him without all the distractions of day-to-day life. When we leave the retreat, we have been transformed precisely because we have been with Him. During the retreat, we were made more whole, more one. God takes those separated elements within us and unites them – usually at varying levels and degrees.
Whether we attend a spiritual retreat or seek God in little “retreat” moments throughout our day, we first ac¬knowledge that we know the Father is the Creator and Giver of all things. He wants to give us EVERY good thing, and He cannot refuse our desire for true inner unity because He first desired this for us.
In fact, He sent His Son to us, Jesus Christ, Who took on our flesh, to make us whole and also to make us one with Him. In His High Priestly Prayer in John’s Gospel, Jesus states, “May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognize that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me.” This is His heritage to us – oneness with the Father.
In His Passion, Jesus took on our brokenness onto Himself. Through His death, He made us whole. In the seeming paradox of the Cross, Jesus took the incompleteness, the lack of unity of man, into His own Body. Broken and utterly spent for us, Jesus won for us the totality and fullness of union with the Father. Blessed John Paul II taught that to defend the Cross is to defend man, to defend life, and ultimately to defend the future of man. In other words, we can find our life – our completeness – the essence of who we are and who future generations of man will be – through the cross of Jesus Christ. Therein lies our strength, our life, and our future.
In our encounters with the Lord, as this transforming activity encompasses our entire person, we experience liberation, freedom. We are liberated from our fears, our weakness, from all the ways we try to separate ourselves from God, Who wants to make us complete. This liberation produces “soundness,” or that quality of being that is undivided, complete, or one. This unification – this integration – is the definition of integrity. Within our souls, the Lord continues this integration and liberation throughout our entire lives. We need only to surrender continuously to this saving action.
Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer desires this oneness, but it cannot be held only for ourselves. The more we are one interiorly within, the more we are impelled to share this oneness with others.
Union must lead to communion.
Love is always creative and life-giving. Our union of love surrounds and fosters union and oneness with others. On our own journey, the Lord gives the trans¬forming graces, but it is often through the assistance of our brothers and sisters who travel with us. We cannot and do not travel alone. We have a responsibility to one another to strive for this oneness among each other. This crosses gender, politics, nation and class. Blessed John Paul II, in his first visit to Poland as Pope, brought together millions of Poles encouraging them to not be afraid – that the essence of who they are is found only in Jesus Christ. He brought hope and called down the Holy Spirit to change the nation. This led to the peaceful uprising of the Solidarity Movement, and the Poles, long oppressed by communist leaders, learned that “when we are together…the enemy is powerless.” Within a short time, communism was finished – not only in their own Polish land but throughout Europe. This was the result of oneness on a political level, yet how much more so, does this principle work on the spiritual level.
We were created to be one – one interiorly within our soul – one with the Trinity – and one with each other.
In all our Carmelite apostolic centers, we see Jesus Christ in each person we encounter. In a very holy and unique way, through the retreats we sponsor, we strive to provide an environment for this interior work to occur – to provide a sacred space for encounter with God. The goal is to provide a haven – a safe refuge – an oasis of solitude that fosters oneness of heart, mind and soul in Christ.
O, Sacred Heart of Jesus, may we all discover the interior oneness you desire for us. Unite all of us into the completeness and fullness of love, with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.