Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Gift and a Call

Earlier in the week I had decided I wanted to post some of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about unity. When I posted this, I decided to type it myself rather than cut and paste from the handy dandy online source so that I could ponder it as I typed. There were quite a few things that struck me, like how I had overlooked in my earlier ponderings the fact that unity among Christians is inseparable from the unity of the Trinity, and is therefore (as Scott Hahn so firmly taught me) a family unity, a covenant unity. But one other thing that struck me was this line from the end of paragraph 820: "The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit."

I am compelled to say that this is a gift and a call given to me. I almost don't see how it couldn't be, given my experience in several corners of Christendom: a confessional Lutheran, an interdenominational charismatic, a Catholic; and having been employed among Evangelicals, and friendly with more liberal Lutheran clergy types as well as a wide smattering of pentecostally-inclined believers. I don't think I could have this type of life experience and come out dispassionate about unity among Christians.

Very shortly after I received Catholic confirmation and entered the Church (about two weeks to be precise), I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome. While in Rome, I climbed the Holy Stairs. I remembered hearing a story about these stairs, believed to be the very steps Christ climbed to Pilate's praetorium during His passion, from the life of Martin Luther. I don't recall the details of the story I was told in Sunday School, but the impression I took from it was that Luther (and all Catholics) were made, by the Catholic hierarchy, to grovel in their wretched unworthiness to exist, and this is why he (and they) went up these steps on their knees.

I was wrong, of course. The practice of walking up the steps on ones knees is out of the love and reverence and worship we wish to offer our Savior, whether his feet ever touched these actual steps or not. The fact was, he walked to his death and I love him. The Church loves him. This is why a pious practice of love developed surrounding these stairs.

But misunderstandings and misinformation do so much damage to the unity and love between Christians and lead to judgments, divisions, and the teaching of others to follow suit. This filled my mind as I climbed the stairs. At each step I prayed for separated Christians of some denomination, for healing and reconciliation. It seemed only fitting to me.

When I lived in Japan there was a sister there who was a native of French Canada. She spoke Spanish, English and Japanese fluently as well. Once she was serving as a translator between those who spoke only Spanish and those who spoke only Japanese. She said just then someone approached her speaking in English, and she had to hold her head lest she lose her balance in trying to hear them. This is how I sometimes feel when I have two emails open: one to a Catholic friend and one to an Assemblies of God friend, and I am trying to speak of the same things to both parties. How I wish sometimes I could simply attach a wire to the hearts of all these various Christians, and we would simply know and share in what each one sees clearly from the Lord.

Psalm 133

1Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

2It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

3As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

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