As we culminate the Christian Unity Octave on January 25 with the celebration of the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, let us give some thought to our duty to work out this intention at the very heart of the Church, the unity of all Christians, because this was also the most fervent intention of Christ himself.
Before his passion, death and resurrection, Christ made a most ardent prayer expressing that all of us be one with him, for that was his purpose for becoming man. The redemption undertaken by Christ was meant to make us one with him, since he is the pattern of our humanity, the savior of our damaged humanity, “the way, the truth and the life” for us. We cannot be as we ought to be unless we are one with Christ.
To be sure, the unity that Christ speaks of is not merely some natural kind of unity, achieved through social, cultural or political forces and laws, but a unity of spirit, of mind and heart, much like the unity that exists between God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The unity spoken of here is not uniformity. It is not about building up a monolithic, rigid uniformity. It can tolerate, even encourage, a great variety of views and opinions, for these can only enrich and strengthen the unity Christ wants for us. We just have to learn how to handle this phenomenon that is somehow expressed in that American nation’s motto, ‘E pluribus unum,’ (one out of the many).
It is a unity that should come as a result of our completely identifying ourselves with him, assuming his mind and heart, his will and ways. It is a unity of our total identification with Christ to such an extent that we can echo St. Paul’s words: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2,20)
And so like Christ, we have to have that driving eagerness of reaching out to everyone, whatever their condition is as well as their attitude toward us, whether friendly or not. Toward this end, we should not be afraid of the effort and the many sacrifices that will be involved.
We may have our own tastes and preferences, our own temperaments and personalities, our own views and opinions, our own charism and vocation, or whatever status we have, but we have the duty to reach out to everyone, especially those who are different from us or even are opposed to us. They can even be opposed to God.
In this way, we would be imitating Christ who was willing to bear all our sins, as St. Paul said, to save all men. (cfr 1 Tim 2,4) This is the only purpose that can bring about the development of a universal heart. Short of this motive, the ideal of a universal heart and of achieving that Christian unity that is proper to us is compromised.
Toward this end, we have to learn how to be patient, how to rise above our personal things and learn how to give our heart to God and to everybody else. This obviously will require of us a certain sportsmanship, a certain insensitivity that is of the kind that can welcome and accommodate the charity of God in our heart. We have to learn to listen and not just hear others, to look and not just to see them.
We have to learn how to suffer with the others, how to be compassionate, how to make as our own the conditions of the others out of the love of God and souls. God himself did all these.
He made himself man in Christ to save us. And Christ, according to St. Paul, made himself like sin without committing sin (cfr 2 Cor 5,21), just to be with us and lead us back to God, from whom we came and to whom we belong.