Our search for unity in truth and love, should never lose sight of the perception that Christian unity is the work and the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Unitatis redintegratio)
As a Sister of Our Mother of Divine Grace, we strive to implement in our own lives and those who we serve, the prayer of Our Lord for Christian Unity. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in a recent address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, stated that any dialogue should be marked by friendship and respect.
"To dialogue does not mean giving up one’s own identity when one goes against the other, and less so to yield to compromising the faith and Christian morality. On the contrary, “true openness implies maintaining oneself firm in one's deepest convictions. With a clear and joyful identity” (Ibid., 251) and because of this, open to understand the reasons of the other, capable of respectful human relations, convinced that the encounter with someone who is different from us can be an occasion of growth in fraternity, of enrichment and of witness. It is for this reason that interreligious dialogue and evangelization do not exclude one another, but nourish one another mutually. We do not impose anything, we do not use any deceitful strategy to attract faithful, rather we witness with joy, with simplicity what we believe in and what we are. In fact, an encounter in which each one puts to one side what he believes in, pretending to give up what is dearest to him, would certainly not be a genuine relation. In such a case, one could speak of a false fraternity. As disciples of Jesus we must make an effort to overcome fear, ready always to take the first step, without letting ourselves be discouraged in face of difficulties and misunderstandings."
It is with these principles in mind, respectfulness, understanding, and a deep effort toward friendship, which helps us to allow for dialogue and true self-giving that we undertake this important work of the Church.
Sincere friendship helps us to share our ultimate vocation to love. It has the potential to heal the divisions among us, to help us understand the dignity of each person made in the image of God. To work for Christian unity, asks us to deepen our love for God and one another. It is a divine command that Christ has given us at the Last Supper in His prayer to His Father: (John 17:17-24)
"Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth. I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. "
Christ gives His Church the gift of unity. The Church must pray and work to maintain, reinforce and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. There are requirements that we should observe if we are to seek to respond to the prayer of Jesus:
- our own conversion of heart and striving for holiness,
- common knowledge of the principles and practices of other religions,
- ecumenical formation, dialogue and collaboration
- and most importantly the necessity of prayer....to pray with and for others who are separated.
Prayer is at the heart of ecumenical commitment.
Pope John Paul II in his document Ut Unam Sint states:
"If Christians, despite their divisions, can grow evermore united in common prayer around Christ, they will grow in the awareness of how little divides them, in comparison to what unites them."
Cardinal Walter Kasper, (while president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) in his book, "A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism" reminds us that through our baptism, Christians are called to form one body in Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist, this call to unity with God and with each other is brought to fulfillment. Each Mass, is the privileged place where we pray for the gift of unity. Jesus Christ in His Eucharistic presence is the source and summit of Christian life. Let us implore Our Lord during our hours of adoration to unite us all in His body.
After the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, (2014) our Holy Father, Pope Francis reminded us this unity can "only come from looking to the mind and heart of Christ." Christ cannot be divided, He wants to draw all men to Himself, into His heart and the arms of His Father. "Christ alone can be the principle, the cause and the driving force behind our unity."