(This is Neil)
Jesus looked at his disciples just before leaving them and prayed, “that they may be one.” He had said, “The Father and I are one thing.” Perhaps, looking at their faces, he realized how different they were from each other and how this could become a source of division. Then, at the moment of his arrest, Jesus revealed his dream and hope for the disciples, ‘that they may be one.” Just as God, the Father Almighty is one with Jesus of Nazareth, he prayed that his disciples might enter into the unity of this family. May they be one!
But we Christians are divided. Our Churches and communities are divided. Not just different. Different in their songs, their forms of prayer and in their ways of life. Many of the faithful would not be able to explain why these Churches and these communities are divided. One could say that the responsibility for these divisions and for so many misunderstandings belongs to people in the past and to distant moments in history. One day the spirit of division came in. And yet the divisions are still among us.
Jesus prayed for us too. In fact the divisions are in our hearts. They are not just theological, but they lie in the feelings we have for one another.
We too are often actors of division, insensibility, and misunderstanding! We are called to respond to Jesus’ prayer that we may be one; we are called to respond in our daily lives. But how?
We need to refuse the overwhelming dictatorship of our ego, our calculations, and our insensibility… Let us refuse to be ignorant of each other; let us refuse a life without love. We all need to be converted to love, stripping ourselves of the old, consolidated world that we hold inside ourselves; taking off the breastplate that only pushes away and wounds. We all need to be converted by strong prayer to Jesus, our Lord, who has loved us and opened the way of love to us. …
— Meditation for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2008, Community of Sant’Egidio
Pray constantly with a patient heart
Be patient with all of them (Thess 5:14)
We cannot be complacent about the divisions between Christians and we are rightly impatient for the day of our reconciliation to come about. But we must also be conscious that ecumenical effort is not sustained at the same rhythm everywhere. Some go forward in leaps and bounds, others are more prudent. As Paul exhorts, we must be patient with everybody.
Like the Pharisee in prayer, we can easily come before God with the arrogance of those who do all things well: “I am not like other people”. If we are sometimes tempted to denounce the slowness or rashness of the members of our church or those of our ecumenical dialogue partners, the invitation to be patient sounds an important and timely warning.
Sometimes it is towards God that we show our impatience. Like the people in the desert, we sometimes question him : why do we have to continue this painful journey if it is all to no use? Let us stay confident. God responds to our prayers, in his own way and his own time. He will create new ways, to meet today’s needs, of bringing Christians together.
Lord, make us your disciples, attentive to your Word, day and night. On our journey towards unity, give us hope for fruit in due season. When prejudices and suspicion seem to dominate, we pray you, give us the humble patience necessary for reconciliation. Amen.