Saturday, December 10, 2011

May We Be One

Once in a while, I stumble upon a web page that demonstrates excruciating contempt for the Catholic faith -- the kind that produces winces while looking at the screen. Most of these writers are, unfortunately, other believers in Christ who view the Catholic Church as some sort of enemy of the Gospel. They don't just disagree with Catholic beliefs, but they also display a bizarre hatred towards them too. Instead of offering rational and compelling thought, they offer the superficial analysis of an armchair commentator sprinkled with paranoia, slander, and pronouncements of hell. For example, "The Catholic religion is of the evil, and it's leaders are the sinister ministers of Satan." With words like these, I scratch my head and wonder.

Worse yet, there are some populous Christian communities who make such belief an article of faith. In 1932, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod adopted a statement calling the Pope the Antichrist. I find such statements to be religious bigotry because they are proud attempts to keep Christianity split apart in contradiction to Christ's prayer that "all of them may be one" (John 17:21) with "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4:5). Real doctrinal differences exist between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities, but such differences cannot be discussed and overcome in a culture of antagonism. How would you feel if someone called your bishop a "minister of Satan"? Such language is a death-kneel to honest dialogue. Christians who take the Lord's prayer of unity seriously need to put their daggers away and address the church-dividing issues at hand.

If St. Paul knew the divided future of Christendom, would he have written this instead?
For it has been reported to me about you, brothers, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, "I belong to Luther," or "I belong to Calvin," or "I belong to Charles Russell," or "I belong to Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Calvin crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Russel?
No Christian alive today participated in the Protestant Reformation or the Catholic Counter Reformation. Those people involved have passed onto the Lord for judgement, but they leave behind a divided Christendom that requires healing. What should be done? There are two choices. Either wait for the lost sons to come home (Luke 15:11-32) or go seek them out in fraternal love. The latter is called ecumenism (ah-CUE-men-iz-um) and it has been a mission of the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. The goal of ecumenism is to create a visible reunited Christendom through prayer, mutual respect, and dialogue. Real unity means harmony of faith and nothing less.

In ecumenical dialog, there is no watering-down of differences. Catholics intend to be Catholic, Orthodox Christians intend to be Orthodox, and Protestants intend to be Protestant. Each party is committed to "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15) according to their conscience, and all strive to find areas of agreement. To quote Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias:
I am very aware there are differences in our belief system and some of them are pretty deep. But you know, we find the common ground on which to meet and talk, because conviction that is not under-girded by love makes the possessor of that conviction obnoxious and the dogma possessed becomes repulsive.
As a Catholic, I believe the terminus of ecumenical discussions is a happy reunion between Rome, the Orthodox churches, and Protestant communities. Far be it from me to know how this unity will be concretely achieved, but I trust the Holy Spirit will bring to completion Christ's prayer that "all of them may be one" (John 17:21). Oneness will ultimately be a supernatural act of God in human history.

May the Lord grant us to be one!