Love craves unity.
We are physical beings as well as spiritual beings.
For these reasons, tangible expressions of love are so necessary. It is not enough that I am told that I am loved, but I need to see it, hear it and feel it. I need that hug, that kiss, that hand on my shoulder. We have an inborn need to profoundly connect with other people.
I was reminded of this by my latest reading:
Brothers, when we were bereft of you for a short time, in person, not in heart, we were all the more eager in our great desire to see you in person. (1 Thes 2:17)
It is not only other human persons for which we have this desire for unity but, most of all, for God. Which is why God gave us the sacraments, so that we can, tangibly, come into contact with Him. Through the sacraments, we can concretely encounter and interact with Christ. In Reconciliation, we can not only know that we are forgiven, but we can hear it said, “I absolve you….” In the Anointing of the Sick, our sick bodies are touched and the oil remains as a reminder of the healing freely given. In the Eucharist, it is Christ Himself whom we take into our bodies under the appearance of bread and wine. God effects in us the very unity which we crave. Would that we truly come to know what it is that He is doing.
In addition to this idea of tangible unity, the other thing this verse brings to my mind is the idea of intercessory prayer. I truly believe that prayer unites people. As I pray for you, my heart is softened toward you and I become better able to love you as God loves you. I believe this is why Paul says, “…we were bereft of you…in person, not in heart.” While they may have been physically separated, Paul continued to remember them, and not just in abstract recollections of memory, but — because heart in Paul’s day meant something more like the center of your will, rather than the center of your emotions — remembered them in prayer, where he was actively willing for their good.
Which brings me back to:
I pray not only for them, 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. (John 17:20-21)