Godtalk: Christ calls for unity
For more than a thousand years, Christians have not had the joy of being one family around Christ. Although there were already tensions within the earliest Christian communities, it was not until the year 1054 that there was a formal split so as to, in effect, establish two formal Christian communities, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in the West.
The Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century saw a further split within the Western Church and Christianity. Today there are more than a hundred Christian denominations, many of them, sadly, not on friendly terms with each other.
Division and misunderstanding are understandable, inevitable, the price of being human. There are no communities without tension and so it's no great scandal that Christians sometimes cannot get along with each other. The scandal is rather that we have become relaxed about not getting along with each other.
The scandal is that we no longer hunger for wholeness and that we no longer miss each other inside our separate Churches. In virtually all of our Churches today there is too little anxiety about those who are not worshipping with us, whether these separated brothers and sisters belong to other denominations or whether they belong to our own.
For most Christians in all denominations there is indifference to the issue of ecumenism. But this kind of indifference is inherently unchristian. Oneness was close to the heart of Jesus. He wants all his followers at the same table. John 17.11
Christian faith demands that we need to be anxious, uneasy until the Church is whole again. None of our respective Churches are the complete Church of Christ apart from the others, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, or Orthodox. cf Lumen Gentium 8
So we are meant to ask ourselves uncomfortable questions: Who no longer goes to church with us? Who feels uncomfortable worshipping with us? Are we comfortable that so many people can no longer join us in our church?
Sadly, today, too many of us are comfortable in Churches that are far from whole. Sometimes, in our less reflective moments, we even rejoice in it: ‘Those others aren't real Christians in any case! We're better off without their kind! There's more peace this way! We are a purer, more faithful, Church because of their absence! We're the one true remnant!’
But this lack of a healthy solicitude for wholeness compromises both our maturity and our following of Jesus. We are mature loving people and true followers of Jesus, only when, like Jesus, we remain in tears over those ‘other sheep that are not of this fold’ John 10.16
Peter Knott SJ