by Archbishop Milingo (Roman Catholic)
I deem it a great fortune that I am one of you to-day, in the Holy Land. I as well deem it a great privilege to say something on Unity, as intended by the Founder of our Church, Jesus the Christ. This is what we call the last will of Jesus, His long prayer to the Father, in John chapter 17.
Our particular interest is taken from His words in verses 20 to 25 : “I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father 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.” We have to distinguish two unities, which distinction goes against the word unity itself. When we say “unities” then we are talking of amalgamations. But I think that in the year 2000, we can add new vocabularies. Let me put it this way. I want to say that there is a unity which comes from external causes, and another unity which has its foundations in the nature of a thing or a being. (Let us still keep the word unity in mind, while transforming it into identity, which brings us to sameness. Identity as sameness may easily be taken out of my appellatives, for instance an African, my tribal identity.)
For instance, when we speak of an identity card, we mean a paper on which my particulars are written, and to complete it, my photo is required on it. The oneness of my identity card and myself is just a little of connection between me and the identity card, by convention. There is another identity which truly comes from my being, that is my blood relatives. We are one because we come from the same father and mother. I may lose my identity card, but not my blood relationship card. We came from the same roots, with similar characteristic patterns which come through our corning into existence.
In the words of Jesus as he says: “May they be one in us, as You are in me and I am in You…”, Jesus is speaking of the nature of His new people, whose unity will be based on the unity of Divine Nature. The nature therefore of the Church is to be identical to the nature of the oneness of God. The first Christians understood this fact, Acts 4: “united heart and soul…” The public identity of the Church should as well portray this unity as a sign of the divine mission of Jesus. Hence He goes on to say: “So that the world may believe it was You who sent me”.
The confirmation of the Divine Mission of Jesus had two most important vehicles. Others would rather call them banners. The first one was that we should believe that He was the Christ, the anointed one, the Messiah. And that “He had words of eternal life, a message of salvation”. As He quoted Himself Luke 4:18, from Isaiah 61:1-2 : “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the down-trodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour”.
All of us here have exactly continued to do what Jesus did, preach the good news. But there was more to it, the other banner, which should be the identity of foundation. The Church wherever it went was to be permeated by this unity from the nature of those who were one with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Here is how He puts it: “But when the spirit of truth comes He will lead you to the complete truth, since He will not be speaking as from Himself but will say only what He has learnt; and He will tell you of the things to come. He will glorify me, since all He tells you will be taken from what is mine. Everything the Father has is mine, that is why I said: All He tells you will be taken from what is mine”. They possess everything in common, in unity.
All that Christ founded, belong to the Trinity. Personal possessiveness of any church, claimed to be founded on the mission of Christ, cannot truly be the church of Christ, if it excludes in its concept the members of its church from the unity with the rest of the church Jesus has founded. To be a valid church it must have the same philosophy of unity as that which was in Christ. To preach the Gospel and to bring the people into unity is as well a mandate. He goes on to say: “Father, 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”: In this verse Jesus alludes to the respect He had for His Father. He had sent Him to unite humanity.
Unity of mankind through the presence of the Church in the world gives joy to the Father, and the Father was to be happy with the work of Jesus. You can imagine how often the Father says to Jesus: “Look at the work of your hands, the members of the church you established are every day on one another’s neck. They are cutting one another’s throats. Always quarrelling, pointing fingers at one another”. We are here to give consolation to Jesus. We want to abide by His will, and to realize the intentions He had when He established the Church “We shall be one, like Jesus is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit”.
Let us conclude with the most inspiring words of St. Paul to the Phil. 2: 1-5. “If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself so that nobody thinks of his own interests first, but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead”.
Archbishop E. Milingo