Written by Michael Fones
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 21:08
I am both amused and saddened by the readings for Thursday, May 24. I get the giggles thinking about Paul's cleverness. Paul's been hauled before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem after causing a ruckus while telling a crowd of his conversion. We read,
"Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees,
so he called out before the Sanhedrin,
'My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees;
I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.'
When he said this,
a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees,
and the group became divided." (Acts 23:6-11)
As the story unfolds, the Sanhedrin ends up forgetting about Paul's testimony about Jesus, and basically dissolves into a fracas over Jewish doctrine.
But the readings are also incredibly saddening, because in the Gospel, we hear Jesus praying to His Father,
“I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so 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 17:20-21)
We dare not be comfortable with all the divisions within Christianity, and certainly must think twice about causing any division within the Catholic community. We know already that the divisions greatly impede the Church's mission of evangelization. How can people believe in Jesus through our word, when
1) we continue to emphasize the differences between Christian denominations and forget our common ground?
2) we speak disparagingly or even hatefully of other Christians?
We are like the Pharisees and Sadducees who forget why they'd gathered in the firstplace, and our divisions (especially when they become particularly violent, like in Northern Ireland) not only make evangelization less effective, they lead some people to the conclusion that Christianity is a detriment to human welfare.
I'm not just crying, "why can't we all just get along?" But I believe the closer we come to the Lord, the more intolerable will divisions in His Body be to us, and the more we will do what we can to be reconciled with one another. Christian unity can't only be addressed on the level of interdenominational ecumenical bodies. It begins with ordinary Christians, lay AND cleric, working side by side to address the problems in secular society. It begins with ordinary Christians praying together in simplicity and humility. It begins by inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives, for it was in the Spirit that Jesus prayed for unity, and it is the work of the Spirit to make us all one.
Nothing breaks down the barriers between Christians than to recognize the Holy Spirit at work within people of different denominations. The charisms are common to all the baptized, and through them God works in us for one another. Learning about them gives us a very powerful way to talk to one another of our lived experience of being a Christian and an instrument of God. If you want to know more about these spiritual gifts, visit our website at http://www.siena.org/spgifts.htm
Finally, not only did the Lord pray for our unity, but so did St. Paul. His words are particularly poignant as we approach the feast of Pentecost.
"I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift." (Ephesians 4:1-6)