Christian Unity Shows the Way for Social Unity

(CNS photo/courtesy of Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute)

(CNS photo/courtesy of Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute)

The Church is one as Christ’s Body is one even though there are many parts to that body, even though it is made of many different individuals from different backgrounds and cultures and who might experience life differently. If there are fractures in that one body, if there are divisions among people who claim Christ as Lord – and there are and historically have been – it is not by Jesus’ will.

This year marks 500 years since the Protestant Reformation was triggered, resulting in a split in the garment of Church unity that continues to the present. Today, the ecumenical movement seeks to mend that rift and unify Christian believers, to restore what Christ intended for his Church from the beginning. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed from January 18th to the 25th, is part of that effort and this year’s theme, “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-20) is derived from Saint Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth, which itself had struggled with factionalism and divisions.

God “has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation,” wrote Saint Paul (2 Corinthians 5:18). He tells us we are called to join in Jesus’ prayer, in words and in deeds, that his disciples “may all be one.”

Furthermore, this one Church is meant to be “a lasting and sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race. Established by Christ as a communion of life, charity and truth, it is also used by Him as an instrument for the redemption of all, and is sent forth into the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth” (Lumen Gentium, 9; see also Evangelii Gaudium, 244-5). Thus, as I discuss in greater detail in a recent article, “Christian Unity in an Age of Social Division,” our work toward Christian unity, as well as our existing unity within a diversity of peoples in the Church, can show the way to overcoming the persistent polarization and divisiveness we see in society, the culture and politics today.