I have spent the past few weeks thinking and praying about Christian unity, the theme of this month’s issue of The Word Among Us.
So this topic of unity was naturally on my mind yesterday when we sang a hymn at Mass that asked Christ to be our light and to shine in our Church. “Yes, Lord,” I prayed. “Please shine your light on us and on people in every church—Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and all the others—so that we can come closer together. Holy Spirit, put an end to all divisions. Give us the humility and love we need to reconcile. Lord, make us one!”
Of the different challenges the Church has faced, the longest lasting has been the challenge of overcoming our divisions. In fact, October 31 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation—and that wasn’t even the first major separation! Centuries before, in 1054, the Eastern and Western Churches divided into Orthodox and Catholic. Today, sociologists estimate there to be more than twenty thousand different Christian churches, denominations, fellowships, and groupings.
So with this history in mind, we are focusing this month’s issue on Jesus’ prayer “that they may all be one” (John 17:21). We want to talk about how our heavenly Father longs for the day when his children will overcome everything that divides them.
The good news is that we’re getting closer to that day. As you’ll read in our articles this month, the march toward unity has been going on for more than one hundred years. And on October 31, Christian leaders around the world will pray for greater unity and ask the Spirit to help them pull down even more of those walls of division.
An Environment of Love. Just as Jesus longs to see his Church united, he longs to see our families united. He knows that division of any kind casts a shadow over our ability to love each other. And so he asks us to make unity, forgiveness, and reconciliation hallmarks of our lives. He wants us to “put on love” over all the other virtues we value at home (Colossians 3:14). If we can create an environment of welcome, respect, and love in our homes, we will find it much easier to deal with whatever divisions crop up. We will work together to find a way to speak the truth to one another, but to do so in love and humility, not in conflict or animosity.
We may never see perfect unity among all Christians or even within our families. But every step closer to the Lord brings us closer to each other. Every time we make unity a priority in our homes, our parishes, and among all God’s people, we help bring the whole Church together. May the Lord make us all one in his love!