by Fr. Stephen Raphael (Roman Catholic)
We have been moved by the Holy Spirit to come together to this International Prayer Meeting in the Holy Land of Israel, where Jesus the Savior was born and brought up and exercised his public ministry preaching the Gospel of repentance and reconciliation; healing the sick, casting out demons and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. For which he suffered in the hands of the Chief Priest, scribes and Pharisees died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day.
We are gathered here from all parts of the world according to the plan of God and the Holy Spirit under the banner of the True Life in God Mission given to Vassula Ryden from above. God chose her in all her wretchedness, purified her and sending her into the world to proclaim the Kingdom of True Life in God and unite us all under one Tabernacle for Worship and Praise. We are grateful to God for this unique Grace of Unity and Reconciliation. We thank God and Praise Him for all the members of the True Life in God Organization who are the instruments who make this Prayer meeting possible here in the Holy Land.
Now I would like to bring before you some of my reflections what Unity and Reconciliation should mean to each one of us, who have been called by the Spirit of Jesus Christ at this Prayer meeting. First I will tell what the each letter of the word U N I T Y A N D R E C O N C I L I A T I O N means to me which may be a great help to you also for your personal meditation and reflection.
The word “UNITY” consists of five letters – and the first letter
U stands for Uniqueness of God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth who has United us with Himself in and through His Son Jesus Christ, Our Lord and God. And we stand strong against the power of Satan.
N – stands for negation of the Uniqueness of God; therefore not united in Jesus Christ we fall weak and be destroyed by Satan.
I – Integrity of the Body of Christ i.e. The Church which should be nurtured in all its totality irrespective of caste, creed or color.
T – Truth of the Gospel of Jesus which should be proclaimed to all the nations.
Y – Yielding fruits when we carry out our mission commissioned by Jesus Christ himself.
The word “AND” consists of three letters and letter
A stands for ALPHA that means Jesus is the beginning of everything in New Creation. He is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.
N – Nativity of Jesus Christ, that a Savior is born to us, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
D – Divine reality has taken human flesh and dwells among us.
The word Reconciliation consists of fourteen letters and the letter
R stands for Re-creation in Jesus Christ by His death and resurrection.
E – Eternity- which is the goal of every believer in Jesus Christ.
C – Conduct of every believer which bears witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
O – Omnipresence of the Trinity in the life of every Christian.
N – New Life when we are reconciled with our brothers and sisters without any Prejudices.
C – Co-operation of every believer in establishing God’s Kingdom here On earth.
I – Incorporated into Jesus Christ by sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.
L – Leadership of Peter for building up ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC & APOSTOLIC CHURCH on Earth.
I – Isms are to be cleansed by the Blood of Jesus Christ.
A – Adoration of Blessed Sacrament – which Jesus desires in His Loving Heart from every believer.
T – Tabernacle of Unity of all Christians and worship God without any doctrinal differences.
I – “I am who I am” God the Father is to be worshiped in and through Jesus Christ.
O – Opening of oneself to the gift of the Holy Spirit who called us for Unity and Reconciliation.
N – Nature of Christians i.e. LOVE AND FORGIVENESS which is the Quintessence of Christian Unity and Reconciliation.
Hence, The God revealed by Jesus Christ is a personal God, rather a communion of three persons. This means that God in His essence is communion, that is Trinity. If God is Trinity – i.e. unity of three persons – namely – Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, then why there should be disunity among the believers who accept and profess their faith in the Triune God? Jesus Christ did not come to establish many Churches in the world. He made Peter the only Head of the Universal Church and gave him the power and authority to rule the Church. (cf… Mt. 16: 13-20)
Jesus said to Vassula on May 16th 1989 “Pray, My beloved of My Soul, for My priests, bishops and cardinals to discern My Will. I, the Lord, need Love and Adoration and Unity, all together one single Tabernacle.If they sought My interest they would understand how My Sacred Heart longs and desires this Unity under the leadership of My Peter. Peter whom I Myself have given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. So, pray with fervor all of you that they may all understand that I, the Lord call them to Unite. I call all those under My Name to return to true unity, under Peter of My Lambs”.
We have forgotten our incorporation into Christ which brings the believer into relation with the persons of the Trinity and at the same time establishes the new relationship with men. This union makes Christians adopted children of the Father. Eph. 1: 3-5 we read “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His Will”.
So the adoption conforms and assimilates us as sons and daughters of Christ. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans 8: 29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son”. Again in Romans 8: 15-17 St. Paul speaks “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship when we cry “Abba” Father! It is the spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, their heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him”.
Therefore, united with Christ, the baptized do not form a shapeless jumble of closed individual existence, but a living organism full of interconnections. Hence, every believer not only has an intrinsic relation of his own to Christ – the Head of the Mystical Body but also an original function and inter-relation with the other members. St. Paul, in his letter to Eph.4:7 says “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift”. Therefore, inserted into the communion of Trinitarian life Christians live in union, communion and sharing of goods (since all are co-heirs) independently of nation, race, social condition and sex.
Unity according to the New Testament:
It is affirmed in Gal.3: 28-29 ” So, there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are the descendants of Abraham and will receive what God has promised”.
Everything originates from the Father, is brought to completion and actualized by the Son, and reaches man, is present to and experienced by him, by means of the Holy Spirit. And in reverse process: in the Spirit, through the son one reaches the Father. There in every liturgical prayer we pray: “Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit all glory and honor is yours, Almighty Father for ever and ever”.
If this is true to the believers of every Church in the world then, we must get reconciled with each other and come back leaving behind all our differences of the past which were based on doctrinal issues, and unite under One Head as it is desired by Jesus Himself.
If the Church which was founded by Jesus Christ under the leadership of St. Peter was ONE, and united for hundreds of years preaching the Gospel to the world faithfully then, it could stand also for ever and ever till the whole world is renewed in the Holy Spirit and everyone believes that Jesus is the only Lord and Savior of the world and we all are brothers and sisters in the true sense of our family unity.
Hence, we all must seek sincerely to unite and be reconciled once again with one another leaving behind all the doctrinal differences which was the key factor of division brought about by Martin Luther, Calvin and others. However, the Church is human and evidently when we study the characteristics of the 12 Apostles, we must ask ourselves who they were? And what they wanted to become? And what Jesus told them? And what was the final outcome of everything?
To answer the above questions let us reflect that the Apostles were simple fishermen with all human weaknesses as we see – Peter who professed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God who was to come into the world Mt 16: 16, to whom Jesus promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven Mt. 16: 18, and when Jesus spoke about his suffering and death Mt. 26: 31. Peter with full confidence and strength said to Jesus “I will never leave you even if I have to die” Mt. 26 : 33, denied Jesus three times Mt. 26: 69-75.
Judas – planned with chief priests to betray him for 30 pieces of silver and became a traitor Mt. 26: 48. The other apostles ran away to save their own lives leaving Jesus alone to suffer and die Mt. 26: 56. Thomas – who did not believe that Jesus was risen from the dead, unless he saw him – Jn. 20: 24-25.
These reflections bring to our understanding that they were weak in their human nature, they were timid, they were ambitious for power and post, but Jesus told them: before you become anything of this sort, you have to become servants of all; as the son of man came to serve and not to be served. Mt. 18: 1-5. However, they did understand the teaching of Jesus slowly but steadily after the resurrection and Pentecost. Then all came together and began the mission of proclaiming and the Church was established under the leadership of Peter. All lived together in perfect love and harmony. There were no doctrinal differences among them. But all preached Jesus Christ with whom they lived, to whom they listened and in whom they believed as the Savior of the world. The Acts of the Apostles is the key example of all realities and facts about the mission work and expansion of the Church etc.
Therefore, we all must understand the mind of Jesus and His Mission to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth with one heart, one mind and understanding unitedly one in faith of Jesus Christ our Lord and Master, under one leadership of Peter and his successor.
Disunity began with Quarrel on Doctrinal Issues:
Today we have fallen from the grace of Unity and got ourselves divided into many Churches. On some fundamental doctrinal issues about which St. Paul warned the leaders in 1Cor. 1: 10-17 who quarreled among themselves when one said “I follow Paul, another: I follow Apollos, another: I follow Peter, and another: I follow Christ”. Christ has been divided into groups! Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptized as Paul’s disciples? 1 Cor. 10: 13. For God in His Wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom, instead by means of the so called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. As for us we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews; and nonsense to the Gentiles, this message is Christ who is the power of God and the Wisdom of God. For what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom; and what seems God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 1 Cor. 1: 21-25.
Hence, the same quarrel is prevailing in the Church today. Some say “We belong to the Roman Catholic Church” some say: “we belong to the Methodist Church” some say: we belong to the “Greek Orthodox Church” some say “we belong to the Anglican Church”, so on and so forth; but no one says we are one as God has brought us into union with Christ to our wisdom. By Him we are put right with God; we become God’s holy people and are set free. So, then, as the scripture puts: whoever wants to boast must boast of what the Lord has done’ 1 Cor1: 30-31.
Therefore, we all must seek sincere Unity among ourselves as we all have same Jesus Christ who died for us on the cross to save us from our sins and get ourselves reconciled with one another without any prejudices. And that is why Jesus chose Vassula in this present age to be the Messenger of Unity among all Churches in the world. To carry out this mission faithfully she had to go through an intense purification of her body, mind and soul as recorded in her Angel book: True Life in God the name given by Jesus himself and where Jesus on 20th May 1987 says “I wish to unite all My priests, bishops, Cardinals and Patriarchs. I desire from them to love Me more; I want from them purity; zeal, faithfulness. They must understand that unity reinforces love, unity establishes love. For how long will discord reign among them? Love is Unity. My love unites them to Me. My Church is weak with their discordance, My desire is Unity. I wish that My Church becomes One. My Church is weakened because of this distinction. It is weakened enormously. How can a body function if one or two of its members are disabled or injured or dismembered? Would it have the same capacity and strength as one which is whole? My Church is My Body; how can My Body function if they disabled it?”
Three fundamental objectives for the kingdom of God:
We must keep in mind three fundamental objectives when we talk about the kingdom of God namely: –
1. Christian Unity
2. Witness to the Gospel by one’s Christian way of living in accordance with the Gospel values and
3. Proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world.
These three objectives go hand in hand. Without Christian Unity among Churches there can be no true Christian witness; and without Christian witness the missionary activity loses its purpose and vitality.
Jesus prays for Unity:
Jesus prayed “that they all may be one, just as You and I are one”. Jn 17: 22. The Unity that exists between the Father and the Son is the basis and model for the unity among the Churches. The divisions among and within the Churches based on doctrinal differences and the exercise of authority go against the will of Christ and is a scandal and anti-witness to the world.The Church is the Sign and Sacrament of Unity of all mankind. It is the Sign of Salvation of the whole humanity. The reflection of second Vatican Council states: By her relationship with Christ, the Church is a kind of sacrament i.e. the intimate union with God and of the Unity of all humankind’. L.G .I, 48.
God the Father, the Creator of heaven and earth expressed His total Love in Jesus for whole humanity, Jn. 3: 14. The mission of Jesus was like salt of the earth and light of the world. And this salt and light has been given to us who believe in him; that is why Jesus told his Apostles: you are the salt of the earth and light of the world’ Mt. 5: 13-14.
It is clear, therefore, as long as Christians are divided among themselves, their ability to credibly preach the Gospel of Love and Unity is seriously hampered. The quest for full communion of Faith and Sacramental life is therefore, vital for the effectiveness of the Christian witness.
Reconciliation sought with the Ecumenical Movement since 1910:
Missionaries experienced their divisions as a great obstacle to their witness to the Gospel. This led to the conference in 1910 at Edinburgh. Three important movements emerged out of this conference at Edinburgh, namely:-
1. The International Missionary Council (1921)
2. The Life and Work Movement (1925)
3. The Faith and Order Movement (1927)
The experiences of the two latter movements finally led to the formation of the World Council of Churches (W.C.C) in 1948. Whereas, the tasks of the Faith and Order Movement were carried on by the Commission on Faith and Order within the W.C.C. and the Life and Work Movement became the dynamics of the W.C.C. To date the W.C.C has held eight assemblies, the last at Harare (Zimbabwe) in 1998.
The Roman Catholic Church and Ecumenism:
The Roman Catholic Church is in dialogue with the Orthodox and Eastern Churches. On 11th November 1994, a common Christological Declaration was issued and signed by Holy Father Pope John Paul II and the Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV of the Assyrian Church of the East; after which the two Heads of the Churches constituted a Joint Committee for Theological dialogue. Since 1988 there is an International Commission for dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The Catholic component of the Commission is also commissioned for a dialogue with the Syrian Orthodox Church.
The Roman Catholic Church has also been in dialogue with the Lutheran World Federation (L.W.F) since 1967. The aim of this dialogue is full visible unity. This dialogue can be seen in four phases:
1. 1967-1972 – Justification and Scripture Tradition.
2. 1973-1984 – Eucharist and Ministry
3. 1986-1993 – Focussed on the link between the Church and Justification.
4. 1995 – The topics being discussed are
(a) The Apostolicity of the Church, including the episcopacy and the universal ministry of Christian Unity.
(b) The co-ordination of what has so far been achieved in the discussions on the sacrament of the Eucharist and
(c) The study of certain ethical issues.
The aim of the Roman Catholic Church dialogue with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) is not full visible union but to find common ground to clarify differences and seek ways of working together to give common witness.
The first Anglican – Roman Catholic International Oral Commission (ARCIOC) (1970- 1981) discussed the issues of Eucharist, Ministry and Ordination and Authority in the Church. ARCIOC II (1988) addressed itself to the topics – salvation and the Church.
In 1991 – it discussed: the Church as Communion.
In 1994 – it discussed “Life’ in Christ” on the subject of morals.
In 1999 – it discussed The gift of Authority – Authority in the Church.
The specific Documents on Ecumenism are:
1. Unitatis Redintegratio (UR) recognizes the ecumenical movement already existing outside the boundaries of the Catholic Church as the work of the Holy Spirit. It proposes collaboration of all in the various fields of human activity.
To foster the Unity of Christians John XXIII in 1960 established the secretariat and in 1988 it has been named the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity. Moreover, a Joint Working Group (JWG) between the Roman Catholic Church and the W.C.C. was established in 1965 to study specific issues pertaining to Unity.
2. Ut Unum Sint: is the first ever Papal encyclical on Ecumenism. In this Pope John Paul II makes certain concrete proposals for the attainment of Unity which is the ultimate goal of the Ecumenical movement. The Spirit is calling Catholics to serious examination of conscience and to enter into a ‘Dialogue of Conversion’ which constitutes the spiritual foundation of Ecumenical dialogue.
The recent document ‘Ecclesia in Asia’ has also given emphasis to Ecumenical collaboration at National, Regional and Local levels, so that we Christians give effective witness to the world and build God’s Kingdom.
Now the time has come for all of us to unite together by remembering the Beatitudes; by following the Ten Commandments and by repenting for our sins and for the sins of our forefathers who were the cause of disunity in the Church and be reconciled with one another leaving behind all our prejudices and doctrinal differences. The Body of Christ has suffered a lot for past many centuries and now we should bury all our differences and work for the Kingdom of God, as desired by Jesus Christ. Let us hear the Message of Hope and Life “Shake off the dust that covers us and rise from the dead”. The Eucharist will keep us alive and we shall be followed by a new era of Love and Peace’ ” His Kingdom is at our very doors. Because God wants everyone to be saved” (cf. Rm. 10: 12-85)
The sins of division and wounds in the Body of Christ are very often due to lack of fidelity, humility and mutual Love. “Rivalry and competition for earthly power”, egoism and pride cannot bring about Unity. Those who endeavor to gather together the scattered sheep of Christ ‘should lower their voices’ in order to hear the voice of the Lord; they should ‘bow down their heads’ for blessing by the Head of the Church – Jesus Christ. Then He shall lift all and draw them to Himself. “Blessed are those who do not differentiate themselves” under Christ’s Holy Name. Let us always remember that ‘the keys of Unity are Love and Humility’. The real Unity is and will be in the Heart, not ‘of the letter but of the Spirit’. It is a Gift of God, but also requires human commitment and effort. “Where there is division, give Peace and Love; where there is confusion ask for Light”.
Unity shall come upon you like dawn – it shall come from God, and your nations shall name it Great Miracle, the Blessed Day – in this day all Heaven shall rejoice. “Behold, what Joy I will have when around One. After you will gather.. and Praise Me; acknowledge your mistake, repenting for your rebellion and remembering My Love for you”. God’s plan is “to unite all nations, from East to West, from North to South.
And so let us pray –
Kindle our hearts with the fire of the Holy Spirit,
give us the Spirit of wisdom and faith,
of daring and patience,
of humility and firmness,
of Love and repentance.
Fr. Stephen Raphael (Calcutta)