Jesus prayed: “I pray not only for these, but for those who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one; Father may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. (John 17:20-21)
The greatest goal and testimony of God’s presence in the world is unity in Jesus Christ. There have been grievous scandals caused by Christian groups splintering off from each other as they reject the leadership of the one to follow what they believe to be the right course. Historically the first great split in Christian unity happened in 1054 when the Pope (leader of the Western Christian Church) and the Patriarch (leader of the Eastern Christian Church) mutually excommunicated each other. The second great split happened in 1517 with the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 thesis which brought about the birth of the Protestant Churches. In both of these splits there were societal, political and cultural elements that brought about the fracturing of the unity that Jesus prayed for in his last priestly prayer.
One of the great goals of the Second Vatican Council was to find a way to restore the unity that Jesus had prayed for. You and I have been witnesses of the effects of this work in our modern age as we have seen the Pope and the leaders of the Eastern Church meet and work through differences that are over one thousand years old. We have also witnessed better and stronger dialogues between the Pope and many of the members of the Protestant Churches.
I do not believe that any individual can bring about any meaningful unity by their singular efforts. In our American history we have watched a group of people (the founding fathers) sacrifice much to bring about the birth of a new country. For all of their sacrifices this unity has been threatened several times, most significantly in the civil war. In the present age as we are getting ready for another presidential election we are forced to listen to the disparate messages of multiple people; all who think they could run the country better than anyone else. Truly the only person who could create unity was Jesus Christ. The unity he created was in fact a sign to the world that Jesus came from God the Father.
The greatest goal of our Catholic Christian community of Saint Joseph of the Lakes is unity in Jesus Christ. St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians tells them: “Just as the human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. (1Cor. 12:12) We can only be successful as an evangelizing community in our expression of unity in Jesus Christ. Sadly, recently there have been a few members of our body who seem to think that the way that they think and act are the “cornerstone” of our expression of faith. This has caused divisiveness and angst among all of us. It is time for us to remember that our unity rests in Jesus Christ; we will not find it anywhere else no matter how strident the message may be.