THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
During this week, Christians all over the world pray for the unity of the Church. They repeat Lord Jesus’ prayer: “Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us…May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.22 I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one.23 With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognize that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17: 11. 22-23).
Jerusalem Church today is many Churches. All believe in Jesus Christ. Throughout history, differences appeared in the “correct expression” of faith. Churches became divided and separated. The separation still persists. The division attributed to the “correct expression” was increased by ethnical and national feelings, by feelings of hostility and rejection of the other. Although the sign of truth in the Christian faith and in the life of any Christian is love, love is the way to truth. There is a big difference between brothers who love each other and look for the truth, and brothers who look for the truth while they are divided, and everyone wants to defend one’s own position. No matter how the Christians disagree, no matter where the truth is, who has changed love in his heart with a hostile spirit, is far from truth and unity.
Lord Jesus said: “God loved the world”. Just as God loves us, we have to love one another. With love we can be one. Without love, we will remain “searchers of unity” without reaching it. The unity among Christians is first love like the love of God, love for every brother and sister, in whatever Church they are. When love is there, the search for the “correct expression” of truth becomes sincere and possible.
All are responsible for this walk towards unity, heads of the Churches and believers. Whoever loves is from God. “Who does not love his brother is not from God”. (1 John 3: 6) Narrow sectarianism stifles love and prevents unity, no matter how studies progress. The words of John the Apostle are clear. If love is absent, the truth is absent, and transforms one’s faith into hypocrisy. The first step towards unity is love. It is also praying as Jesus himself prayed. Unity is a gift from God; it will be a fruit of Christians’ love for each other.
Everyone remains in his Church, in his faith traditions and liturgy. Diversity is not contradiction to love. Everyone remains faithful to his Church, and everyone loves all his brothers and sisters in all Churches. This is the first step towards unity.
By: Patriarch Michel Sabbah.