Near the end of the Last Supper, Jesus earnestly prayed that “they [his followers] may all be one” (John 17:21). It could be said that this was one of the last wishes of Jesus, which mark its importance. It is theologically as well as humanly reasonable that the Lord make this petition, and we should never tire of its importance for Christian living. In a contemporary moment marked by so much confusion, discord and division, the call to Christian unity should be more urgent than ever. We should want to put an end to the offense that is disunity among peoples who believe in the Person and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is a goal for which we constantly should hope.
This week marks yet another yearly celebration of the Octave for Christian Unity, lived out during the eight days leading up to the feast of the conversion of St. Paul (January 25). Since 1908 (see history), special prayer has been offered to appeal to God for Christian unity. We should participate in this call to prayer, knowing that unity is a gift from God, not merely the work of human calculation or organization. Let’s open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord along the paths of unity. In the first place, let us seek personal union with God by a commitment to prayer and our vocation, whatever that might be: priest; religious; or married or single layperson. God is counting on us to build up unity right where we are. Likewise, let us reach out to others near us; with a spirit of service may we form bonds of kindness and charity. In as much as we can pray with other Christians, let us do that too. We will all be led to the feast of the conversion of St. Paul on January 25 with a renewed conversion ourselves, and moved by the Holy Spirit, we really may be closer to all being one.
PS: I recently viewed the movie “Fatima”, and I highly recommend it to all Christians and people of good will. Even though some might think devotion to Mary is a hindrance to Christian unity, I would remind them that Our Lord’s first miracle at Cana involved Mary as facilitator to the unity and joy of that gathering. The encouragement, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5) continues to echo through the ages….