Sunday, January 22, 2017

Unity in the Community

St. Pope John XXIII (1958-63)
Each and every human person has been created in the “image and likeness” of God.

We are now in the week of prayer for Christian Unity. Why?  Because we have a divided Christianity.  And Jesus prayed at the last supper that his disciples “may all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you.”

This year we remember the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's clarion call for reform in the Church.  Luther initially argued for reform, not division.   But his call spread like a contagion across Europe and launched Protestant Christianity.

Today we have about 1.2 billion Catholics, 800 million Protestants, and 260 million Orthodox.  And until Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope John XXIII in 1958, Catholics and Protestants generally emphasized what divided them.

Pope John XXIII created a transformation in Catholic-Protestant relations.   He moved Christians from diatribe to dialog with his affable, friendly and lovable personality and his sense of humor.

Good Pope John realized that before people can discuss what divides them, they have to get to know one another.  This search for unity reached a milestone among Catholics with the 1964 “Decree on Ecumenism” which encourages conversations with our separated brothers and sisters about what unites and divides us and how we can cooperate, especially in humanitarian projects.

Catholics are linked with mainstream Christian churches in many ways: through a creed, baptism, the bible and many justice and peace issues. There's one Lord, one faith and one baptism. But we're still divided on key issues, e. g., the authority of the Pope.  Together we have to find ways beyond what divides us to what unites us.
 
And so we pray that we might all be one: open to conversations with other Christian traditions and at the same time faithful to our Catholic tradition.

Pope Francis wants us to be a church that welcomes people, saints as well as sinners.  He wants us to be a compassionate church, always reformable, serving one another, especially the poor and vulnerable, open to dialogue with people of faith and no faith.

We are a worldwide community of believers, multinational, multicolored and multicultural, that remembers Jesus, a community of disciples that hears God speak to us in the liturgy of the Word and in the liturgy of the Eucharist presences the Risen Christ sacramentally and mystically in the bread and wine.

And yes, we are a community that takes a stand on peace and justice. The Catholic Community sponsors and staffs shelters, hospices, soup kitchens, literacy programs, day-care centers, hospitals and schools throughout the world. And hundreds of Catholic Relief and Refugee agencies attempt to meet the basic needs of the poor.

But alas we are also a community of believers with tensions.  Because we are human, saints as well as sinners.

As we pray this week for Christian unity, let us give thanks to God for the faith community to which we belong:  a community that calls us to a life with God here and to an indescribable heavenly life where we shall be like God, and see God as God really is.  Amen.


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