“I pray … 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 17:21)
Our journey toward the unity to which Jesus calls us is a pilgrimage of faith we know not where it will end, only that we must persevere.
A surprising and encouraging incident on that journey occurred last November in Westminster Abbey when, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, Franciscan Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, delivered a sermon on Christian unity at the opening of the Church of England’s General Synod.
Recalling the forthcoming 500th anniversary of the reformation (Oct. 31, 2017) Father Cantalamessa called for a qualitative leap forward in the restoration of unity, explaining that “We need to start again with the person of Jesus, humbly helping our contemporaries to experience a personal encounter with Him.” He added “We need to go back to the time of the Apostles: they faced a pre-Christian world, and we are facing a largely post-Christian world.”
“Nothing,” the Papal Preacher added, “is more important than to fulfill Christ’s heart’s desire for unity expressed in today’s gospel. (John 17:20-21) In many parts of the world people are killed and churches burned not because they are Catholic, or Anglican, or Pentecostals, but because they are Christians. In their eyes we are already one! Let us be one also in our eyes and in the eyes of God.”
His words echoed those of Pope Francis two years ago when he said, “Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill, we are all Christians. We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for.”
That is what we are about, asking to be shown the path to the unity Jesus desires — seeking His will with open hearts and open minds. Pilgrims on a journey that is not ours but God’s