And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are (John 17:11).
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).
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
The Love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given us (Romans 5:5).
We are in the middle of the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” (January 18-25). Last year at this time, I also posted an article on Christian unity, and later in the year I wrote a three-part series of articles called “Genuine Ecumenism.” These articles drew more responses from my Catholic Man Channel readers than any other articles I have written. Some were positive and some were quite negative and harsh. I must be a “glutton for punishment” because I’m going to try it again this year.
First of all, what is the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”? It is a week set aside to pray that our Heavenly Father make us one, as Jesus did before he went to the Cross (John 17:20-21). Jesus’ prayer should be our prayer, not just during this week but also throughout the year.
How important is our unity as Christians? Jesus says that through it, “the world may believe” that the Father has sent him into the world to save it. Earlier he gave his Apostles (and us) a new commandment: “love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus said that if we did, “all will know that you are my disciples.” These two commands, “be one” and “love one another” are the heart of the Gospel message. It is Jesus’ instructions to us on how to live as Christians and how to evangelize the world.
So how are we doing? Well, when we look at the world, we see there are more non-Christians than Christians. When we look at the Body of Christ we see thousands of Protestant Churches; and we see hostility among mainline, fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and non-denominational churches. We also see hostility among traditional, conservative, orthodox, charismatic, and liberal Catholics.
During this week and at other times, take time in prayer to let Jesus teach you about his plan for a united church. Spend time with him so that he can soften your heart toward your fellow Christians. Listen to his voice so that you can filter out the voices of suspicion, division, and condemnation that keep us separated.
This approach may seem naïve at first. After all, church history is filled with tragedy. Wars have been waged, and persecutions have been carried out with the goal of wiping out “heretical” Christians. Believers have lost their jobs or their homes because they belonged to the wrong church. The goal of this article is not to downplay our differences. The differences in our theology and how we practice our Christian life and worship are real.
Shouldn’t more be done than simply praying? Yes and no. Yes, more should be done. And it is being done. Scholars, theologians, and church leaders continue to meet in dialogue to resolve differences and sort through our painful past. But no matter how much study or dialogue takes place, it will bring about very little change if it is not coupled with sincere, humble prayer, individually and with other Christians. Pope John Paul II once wrote: “If Christians, despite their divisions, can grow ever more united in common prayer around Christ, they will grow in the awareness of how little divides them in comparison to what unites them” (That They May Be One, 22).
Do you want to see the broken body of Christ healed? Then come to Jesus. Deepen your relationship with him through ongoing conversion, prayer, and the Sacraments. Let him write the Gospel message of unity and love on your heart. Look for opportunities to pray with other Christians. As you do, divisive thoughts will fall away. You will have a greater respect for those who are authentic believers and followers of Christ. And you will become an agent for unity and healing, not further division and hostility!
“Lord Jesus, before you went to the Cross, you prayed that Christians would be one and that we would love one another. Holy Spirit, you are the love of God poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5). Fill all believers with a desire for unity. Heal the wounds of your body, and make it whole. Make us one, so that the world will come to believe in you, Father of all, use me, and all Catholic men, to bring reconciliation in the church today! Let us be agents of healing, to bring unity to your divided people! Lord Jesus, we long for the day when God’s people are gathered around your table in complete unity and love!”
Maurice Blumberg is a Trustee of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org//) and Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to Servicemen and Prisoners for The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/).
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. Spend a few minutes meditating on Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35, 17:11, and 17:20-21. How important are these words to you? How important should they be, especially in light of the consequences of obedience to them?
- 2. The following questions are addressed in the article? How would you answer them?
- How important is our unity as Christians?
- So how are we doing?
- Shouldn’t more be done than simply praying? (What else?)
- Do you want to see the broken body of Christ healed? (What can you do?)
- 3. If you are in a men’s group, end your meeting by praying that each of you would say yes to Jesus’ call to love one another as he has loved you and to be one as he and the Father are one. Use the prayer at end of the article as the starting point.