On Uniting Christians

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Acts 15: 7-21; John 15: 9-11

Dc. Larry Brockman


Today, we hear how the Gentile converts were accepted into the Church by the Apostles at the Jerusalem Council in the first decades of the Church.  The Apostles, of course were all Jewish.  They had modified their belief to accept Jesus as the Messiah, but they were still practicing all of the rules of their original Faith. 

Peter (Simeon) acknowledged that it was Jesus’ will that the Faith be spread to all mankind, including the Gentiles.  And Paul and Barnabas talked about how successful they had been in converting the Gentiles.  Finally James, the leader in Jerusalem, pleaded to accept the Gentiles who had converted to the Faith.  And so, the Gentiles, people like us, were welcomed into the Church and not forced to comply with all the old rules.   

Recently Pope Francis addressed a gathering of Evangelical Preachers via a taped video message.  His talk was introduced by Tony Palmer, a Bishop in his protestant congregation.  Palmer’s preface to the introduction was fascinating, because he said that the Protest is over that spawned Protestantism because in 1999, the Catholics and Lutherans signed a joint agreement that resolved the original issue behind Protestantism and so, there is nothing more to protest! 

Bishop Palmer stood up in front of all those Evangelicals and declared that the protest was over   And said “we are all Catholic now”- because we solved the issue!  He went on to say that “diversity of belief is divine, but division is diabolic”.  And thereby recognized that we may all be unified, or “catholic” by believing the essence of Christian Faith in our hearts; and yet, we still have significant diversity within our beliefs.  Division is what is dangerous, not diversity.   

Then came Pope Francis’ address.  The Pope greeted the assembled as Brothers in Christ, and even extended that greeting to his “brother bishop”.  The main part of the address was one of hope for unity.  What really struck me was the Pope’s acknowledgement that God had started this ecumenical outreach- the signed statement by the Lutherans and Catholics, for example- and that he never knew God to start something that he wouldn’t finish well!   

I think that is a great message for today’s world for Christians- a message of hope for the unity of all Christians because more than anything today, we need to be united as Christians.

There are serious divisions between the people of the World that are transcending the diversity of practice among us Christians.  We would do well to unite as Christians despite our diversity to counter the divisions caused by secularism, communism, jihadist Islam, and hedonism.  Moreover it is time for us to be proactive at it, just as Pope Francis has been.   

All of us live with and interact with other Christians.  But when it comes to addressing our unity of belief in the heart, we just don’t seem to do that with them.  It’s almost as if we erect a wall between us that prevents discussion of what unifies us because we want to avoid arguing over our diversity.   

Jesus says this in today’s Gospel:  “If you keep my commandments you will remain in His love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.”  That, it seems to me, is what is most important.  That is the key to advancing unity between us, rather than solving the diversity of expression. 

For my part, I am satisfied that the Catholic Church has the fullest benefit of God’s revelation to mankind.  If I am secure in that; then I don’t need to be defensive and react to someone who criticizes how our Church worships. Rather, we need to build on the unity that jointly keeping the commandments implies:  like Respect Life; honesty in our dealings; recognizing God and giving him honor and respect through worship and prayer;  not taking His name in vain; understanding that there are absolute moral; truths; respecting and honoring marriage between a man and a woman.  These are things we all have in common as Christians!  And how much more wonderful the world would be if we jointly pursued these goals together. 


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