The unity of the Spirit
The word that popped out to me today during the readings at Mass was "striving." As in:
... live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness,
bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace....
St. Paul doesn't (in this translation at least) tell the Ephesians to strive to live in a manner worthy of their call. Nor does he tell them to strive to live with all humility and gentleness, nor to strive to live with patience, nor to strive to bear with one another through love. He just tells them to do these things.
But he does tell them to strive to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
That might not mean anything in particular. Or it might mean that preserving the unity of the Spirit is particularly important. Or that preserving the unity of the Spirit is particularly difficult. Or that it's both important and difficult.
Consider the words in these verses that describe living in a manner worthy of the call of Christ:
The first four are generally regarded as virtues our society honors independent of any particular religious tradition. Unity, though, doesn't fit in quite the same way. "You're really patient" is a compliment. "You really preserve unity" is... an unusual thing to say, and a compliment, I guess, if the speaker approves of the specific unity preserved.
Even then, unity is often seen as merely an instrumental good, a means to some good end. Political unity is an instrumental good that can lead to political success. Social unity leads to strengthening of the social group, against competing groups or simply against decay.
The unity St. Paul is writing of, though, is the unity of the Holy Spirit. It does happen to lead to other goods, but primarily it is a good in itself, because there is in fact
one body and
one Spirit, as you were also called to the
one hope of your call;
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
That seems like something worth striving for. Given the current state of US vs THEM, it's also something that needs striving for. Fortunately, St. Paul tells us how to do it: through the bond of peace. Unfortunately, through the bond of peace is how St. Paul tells us to do it, and that's not something we've worked very hard on mastering in recent decades.