Unity requires prayer and sacrifice

By  Michael Kirley, Catholic Register Special
  • February 13, 2009

{mosimage}Editor’s note: this is one of four honorary mentions for the Friars Student Writing Award contest sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and The Catholic Register. Michael Kirley, 17, is a Grade 12 student at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Lindsay, Ont.

The words, “That they may be one in your hand” (Ezekiel 37:17), resound throughout the ages both as a timeless message of hope for, and a challenge to, the disciples of Jesus everywhere.

Before the eyes of the Judean exiles scattered in Babylon and in Assyria, Ezekiel sets the vision of God: to the lifeless and stagnant Israel, God offers new life and to the divided exiles who have lost hope, Ezekiel pledges that God will unify them and make them holy by grafting them together as one.

Ezekiel’s enduring promise of new life and unity stands as a reminder to contemporary Christian disciples, beckoning them to welcome God’s call to unity and to find a compelling reason to devote their lives to bring harmony to the broken Body of Christ. 

Today, more than ever, Christians are called to heed the message of Ezekiel and work to generate respectful unity among all disciples and participate in God’s dream for His people. The passage reminds all that it is the Spirit of God who shapes the direction of Christian unity. 

Trusting in this viewpoint demands a fundamental shift in the attitudes of Christians towards other disciples of the Gospel: every believer is first and foremost the beloved of God.  Consequently, disciples are called to appreciate the diversity evident in the Christian church as a sign of God’s creativity. 

Yes, each Christian denomination has unique liturgies, traditions, customs and governance, yet, jointly, these denominations are God’s people, the church, loved and cherished by a God who intends to unify Christians in spite of themselves.

The existence of so many denominations seems to belie God’s faith in God’s people; yet, surrendering to God’s way inspires Christians to visualize a unified church centred on God’s love.  This requires not only prayer and service, but a refinement of human priorities, so as to align them to the message of God — God treasures all in God’s hand as one.

The road toward unity is long and there is much work to be done. There is no need to fear, however. The same God who promised unity to the people of Israel entices Christian disciples to heal the divisions plaguing the church. The disciples’ imperfect efforts of joint prayer, service and dialogue are simple baby-steps on the road to unity and an awesome act of trust in a God who has immense faith in His people.

Jesus enhances Ezekiel’s words when He says, “May they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me “(John 17:21), and provides the best reason for Christian unity. Surely disciples caught up in squabbles over who is more faithful or which way is better do not witness to the loving union of Jesus with the Father. Jesus prayed for only one thing for future disciples — unity.

Where there is a community lovingly one in the tender hand of God, there is also the living presence of the Holy Trinity. To be one is the necessary vocation of the Body of Christ and a powerful sign that reveals the bond of love of the Father and the Son and leads others to faith. Then the Holy Trinity will dance with joy.

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