– Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter –
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [John 17:21]
One of the greatest scandals in the Christian Church is its lack of unity. Studies have shown that there are some 30,000 different denominations of the Christian Church today. The vast majority of these have their own organisational structure, belief statement, culture, traditions, emphasis, and ‘founders.’ It is a simple fact that this kind of segregation and division was never God’s idea! Jesus’ own prayer in today’s gospel is that all the faithful would be one. Though one can read Church history to discover why these various Christian traditions emerged and how they differ from ours, a more important question is simply what can we do to work towards the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer for Christian unity?
First of all, we must recognize that we Catholics are called to work toward Christian unity. The Decree of Ecumenism states that “the restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council.”
Secondly, we must be aware that the Church recognises the validity of all Christian baptisms that are administered with water and in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. So all baptised Christians are united with us in Christ’s death and resurrection through baptism, even if they’re of another Christian tradition.
Thirdly, the most powerful and effective way to build unity is not simply by debating points of doctrine and difference, but rather by building relationship. Those outside our tradition are in most cases not intentionally against us or ‘protesting’ us, but rather have grown up in a different situation and been exposed to differing understandings of Christian faith. In this, they can have insights and experiences that deserve our consideration both in terms of how they understand God, but also in how they share their faith with others.
Finally, the more authentically we live out our Catholic faith, the more like Jesus we become, and the more like Jesus we become, the more attractive and compelling we are to those from other Christian traditions. Dr Peter Kreeft says that “when Catholics know Jesus more than Protestants do, Protestants will want to become Catholics so that they can be better Protestants.” He says that “when Catholics are evangelized, Protestants will be sacramentalised.” Today, consider opening a conversation about Jesus with someone from another Christian tradition, and let us join with Jesus in his prayer that we may all be one.
by Peter Pellicaan