Christian Unity

Homily for Jan. 23, Sunday of the III Week in Ordinary Time

After the Last Supper, when Jesus was praying to the Father, He asked that all His followers be one, as He is one with the Father. The unity of all Christians was very important to Him, and He could foresee already that it was not going to be easy to achieve or maintain.

St Paul, in the first years of Christianity, already had to call the Corinthians to task for dividing themselves into cliques according to the missionary who baptized them, as we hear in the second reading. The Apostles all had to work hard to overcome the differences that separated the Christians who were Jewish converts from those who had been pagans, and the conflicts between those of Hebrew and Greek origin.

This might sound familiar. It’s been the case throughout the history of the Church. Today, we here at St Patrick’s, like parishes all over America, have a very diverse community with people of different ethnic, linguistic, cultural and national origins. We try to work together, understand each other, and build family spirit so we live in unity as one family in the midst of our diversity. Although we do our best, we need to keep working to go that extra mile to know each other and appreciate the contributions of all the different parts of our community.

The goal of unity among all Christians transcends the life of individual parishes and even of nations and continents; Christianity world-wide suffers profound divisions. Throughout history, many groups have separated from the Catholic Church and undergone further divisions, to the point where some people enumerate more than 20,000 Christian denominations. This is a big problem: Christians are not living the unity that Jesus so clearly wanted.

Today we are half-way through the Week of Christian Unity, which runs from the 18th to the 25 of January. The theme for this year emphasizes, in the words of Pope Benedict, “four pillars of unity found in the life of the early Church” and described in the Acts of the Apostles: “fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed by the Apostles,…” fellowship, “… the breaking of the bread… [and] prayer”. The Eucharistic breaking of bread is the realization and fruit of the unity towards which we work; sharing Communion means sharing the fullness of the same faith. That is why we cannot receive Communion at Protestant services, and vice versa.

To reach that full visible unity at the Eucharistic table, we must be faithful to the other three pillars: prayer as brothers and sisters who are all children of God; complete faithfulness to the teachings handed down by the Apostles; and fellowship. Christians will never be united if we cannot pray together, work and have fun and friendship together, and agree to adhere to the basics of the faith. Sadly, obstacles exist on all these points, in different ways and degrees according to each Church or ecclesial community.

Let us pray today for unity – first of all in our own families, and then in our own parish and among all Christians. May we also all build unity actively by forgiving each other, by reaching out to overcome differences and misunderstandings, and by continuing to shape our lives, thoughts and words in accordance with the truths of the faith we all share. As our unity in Christ grows, we will truly experience, as Isaiah prophesied, “abundant joy and great rejoicing”.


About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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