I’m curious: what are some practical steps that you think we could take to move forward in what you see as the right direction?
Well — since you ask — I’d say that the first necessary step is to meditate regularly on John 17:20-23:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
I know of no better commentary on this passage that John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint, which I mentioned in a previous post. The whole thing is very deep and wise, but I’d want to call particular attention to the following passages:
- “Christ calls all his disciples to unity. My earnest desire is to renew this call today, to propose it once more with determination, repeating what I said at the Roman Colosseum on Good Friday 1994, at the end of the meditation on the Via Crucis prepared by my Venerable Brother Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. There I stated that believers in Christ, united in following in the footsteps of the martyrs, cannot remain divided. If they wish truly and effectively to oppose the world’s tendency to reduce to powerlessness the Mystery of Redemption, they must profess together the same truth about the Cross. The Cross! An anti-Christian outlook seeks to minimize the Cross, to empty it of its meaning, and to deny that in it man has the source of his new life.
- “Each one therefore ought to be more radically converted to the Gospel and, without ever losing sight of God’s plan, change his or her way of looking at things. Thanks to ecumenism, our contemplation of ‘the mighty works of God’ (mirabilia Dei) has been enriched by new horizons, for which the Triune God calls us to give thanks: the knowledge that the Spirit is at work in other Christian Communities, the discovery of examples of holiness, the experience of the immense riches present in the communion of saints, and contact with unexpected dimensions of Christian commitment. In a corresponding way, there is an increased sense of the need for repentance: an awareness of certain exclusions which seriously harm fraternal charity, of certain refusals to forgive, of a certain pride, of an unevangelical insistence on condemning the ‘other side’, of a disdain born of an unhealthy presumption. Thus, the entire life of Christians is marked by a concern for ecumenism; and they are called to let themselves be shaped, as it were, by that concern.”
- “This love finds its most complete expression in common prayer. When brothers and sisters who are not in perfect communion with one another come together to pray, the Second Vatican Council defines their prayer as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement. This prayer is ‘a very effective means of petitioning for the grace of unity’, ‘a genuine expression of the ties which even now bind Catholics to their separated brethren’. Even when prayer is not specifically offered for Christian unity, but for other intentions such as peace, it actually becomes an expression and confirmation of unity. The common prayer of Christians is an invitation to Christ himself to visit the community of those who call upon him: ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Mt 18:20).”
- “I am reminded of the words of Saint Cyprian’s commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of every Christian: ‘God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. At the dawn of the new millennium, how can we not implore from the Lord, with renewed enthusiasm and a deeper awareness, the grace to prepare ourselves, together, to offer this sacrifice of unity?”
It is from commitment to these principles that unity will come, and with that unity, renewal of our hearts and minds, strengthening of our common purpose, and — in relation to my own calling especially — increasing intellectual coherence and power. I can’t imagine a better meditation as Holy Week comes once more to us.
P.S. I will write another post with more recommendations — of the kind that the world calls “practical” — but probably not until after the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord.