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Father Muench Says...

The need for unity in our church

May 11, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I would like to share with you today ideas that come up in the Gospel that was read on the Sunday before Pentecost Sunday.  I found this Gospel very meaningful.

Recently, I was asked to speak to our new class of deacon candidates and decided that this Gospel reading would be a good one to consider.  In this reading, Jesus is praying – some call this his High Priestly Prayer.  He prayed for all of us, all who will be his disciples, certainly, all who are and will be deacons in our parishes.

Jesus prays, “Father, they are your gift to me.  I wish that where I am they also may be with me; that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

Jesus prays for us and still does.  In this payer, he makes it very evident that his main concern is unity among all of his disciples – “that they may be one as we are one.”

I would like to summarize here some of the ideas I have recently discovered in my readings of the many who have written about the importance of unity in our Church community.

Unity does not mean uniformity.  Many have been surprised in their study of the Gospels of just how diverse were the followers of Jesus.  The apostles were so different in temperament, personality, style and social status.  Jesus found their diversity a healthy life-giving force.

A community, like our Church community, will never achieve a unity which denies difference.  Unity is achieved when each member is different and contributes a different gift but all are united around the same goal led by mutual love.

Such a spirit of unity and love begins to come about when we truly eliminate from our thoughts that urge to prove that we are the best.

Each person must open themselves to others, ready always to accept the gifts that others bring. 

Our Church needs – indeed, must have – a united community that brings strength and confidence. Jesus spoke of this that we must unite by forming the Body of Christ despite our differences.  In this way, we become witnesses to Christ when we rise above our differences.

Jesus knew that unity was vital for his Church so he prayed for unity – a unity filled with love, based on love. 

We, as disciples of Jesus, must build and form a unity when we develop our fidelity to Jesus’ commandment of love – “Love one another as I have loved you.”

The challenge of community involves sharing, belonging, compassion and joy.  These are the qualities that make our Church and our communities all they should be in the vision of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine and build such a community – a community of strength and glory and faith and love and mercy? Selfishness will always be a blight on any such community.

Today – than any other time – the Catholic Church needs to form a true community.  This must be a community with mutual respect, tolerance and with a joy of being united in the mission of Jesus.

To be a believer in today’s world can be a lonely business.  Here is where the community comes in.  In order to sustain our faith we need the support of the community. 

During the Last Supper, we have seen that Jesus prayed for unity among his disciples, “Father, may they be one as we are one.”  But is that not an impossible ideal?  Would one not need to be perfect to belong to a community like that?

A Christian community is not made up of perfect people.  The little community of disciples that Jesus prayed for was made up of people who were timid and weak and fearful.

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche – talks about ‘the fellowship of the weak’ and says that greater solidarity can result from the sharing of weakness than from the sharing of strength.

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