Strength in Unity: A Maryknoll Reflection

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By Darlene Jacobs, M.M.

Sunday, May 12, 2024
Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26 | 1 Jn 4:11-16 | Jn 17:11b-19

As I reflected on this passage from Saint John’s Gospel, I was reminded of a couple of lessons I learned more deeply from over 40 years of mission in Tanzania.

The first lesson struck me as I read: “so that they may be one just as we are one,” and I thought: Umoja ni nguvu – “unity is strength.” In this passage Jesus is praying, and his prayer is that we, the people, may be one just as he and his Father are one.

I remember with admiration the many times I observed people farming together, building together, mourning together, celebrating together. In all these activities, being together maximized the strength of every individual, and being together increased not only the efficacy of the activity but also its beauty.

Jesus, in this prayer, is reminding us that God is ever mindful of us. The unity he refers to grants us the continuation of the protection experienced when Jesus walked on earth and which now extends in his resurrected phase. Umoja – unity – is a protection of the individual and of the community, and the result is joy, the joy we share with Jesus.

Sometimes we experience so much disunity that it seems impossible to imagine another way of being. Maybe we need to consciously look for ways of being strong together, to share the glory and the disappointments of life, “so that they may share my joy completely” becomes a reality.

The other memory came to me with these lines “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” At that I started singing “Unitume mimi, nitume Bwana.” (“Send me, send me, Lord.”) This song is an old one and one which brings back memories of spirited singing, drumming, dancing, and expressions of willingness to go and serve, to go out into the world and to help others. When Jesus said those words in this Gospel, it was not with reluctance that this call to mission was heard, but with enthusiasm and joy and willingness to go and to do whatever was asked. Jesus sent the disciples to do the work of unity and truth telling as he departed, and those early disciples in turn have left those tasks to us.

And so I see a couple of challenges in the Gospel this Sunday. What can I do to promote unity and discourage disunity? In what small or large way can I exemplify that unity is strength and that it is worth working toward?

What does being sent mean in my life? Am I responding to those invitations? And what does my response look like? Is it a response with reluctance or with joy and enthusiasm?

By being one and by sharing that message with others, may we fulfill the prayer of Jesus and completely share his joy.

Maryknoll Sister Darlene Jacobs, of Noonan, North Dakota, was first assigned to Tanzania in 1969. There she taught at the Music Conservatory of Tanzania, created programs for street children, worked in administration for a technical school in Dar es Salaam and founded the Murigha School for Girls. She currently resides at the Maryknoll sisters center in Ossining, New York.

This reflection was first published in 2018 by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. To read other Scripture reflections published by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, click here.

Featured image: Maryknoll Sister Darlene Jacobs teaches students at the Music Conservatory of Tanzania. (Maryknoll Mission Archives/Tanzania)

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Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Visit