Passion for Unity
by Fr. Teofilo Cristobal (Roman Catholic)
"The Spirit and the Bride say: "Come! Whoever hears let him say: Come! Whoever thirsts let him approach, and whoever desires, let him freely take the water of life" (Rev. 22:17)
Peace and Joy in Jesus and Mary!
Beloved brothers and sisters, I give thanks to Divine Providence for having considered me, a worthless servant, to testify in his name that "Love is Alive". From this blessed land of Bethlehem, where occurred the most extraordinary event in history, we assert: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, and we have seen his Glory, the Glory of the only Son coming from the Father: fullness of truth and loving-kindness." (John 1:14)
The Word (Jesus-Christ), cannot be proclaimed or announced but by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 12:13). If we live by the Holy Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit (Gal. 5:25)
We are being witnesses to the action of the Holy Spirit as never before, it is He who will convince the world of Jesus' stateliness and it is He who gathers us today at the Lamb's Weddings. The Spirit and the Bride are saying Come!; it is the Spirit, along with the Bride (the Church) who are inviting all men, of all races, peoples and nations to a festivity, to a new Pentecost, to a new era of holiness as never seen before.
"For the Father will delight in you and will make your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, so will your builder marry you, and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you." (Is. 62:4-5)
Awaken Church of Christ; your God is coming robed in majesty, and desires to meet his spotless and wrinkleless bride, beautiful and splendorous.
Let us say too, MARANATHA (Come Lord Jesus) those thirsty of salvation; let us go through the only door: Jesus-Christ and let us drink out of the side of His Eucharistic and Mysterious Heart. He keeps moaning mystically from the cross: "I am Thirsty"; thirst for souls, thirst to see his Church united in love, and in the peace of all of his children.
We are here to quench that thirst and to receive that water of life, the downpour of his Spirit. Jesus promised us: "Let anyone who is thirsty, come to me; and let the one who believes in me drink, for the Scripture says: Out of him shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7: 37-38) Saint John adds that he was referring to the Spirit which all who believed in him were to receive.
Saint Paul exhorts us: "Walk according to the Spirit and do not give away to the desires of the flesh!" (Gal. 5:16) To walk according to the Spirit is to open ourselves to the love of our neighbor. Love is the fullness of the law. Jesus demands: "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him; and we will come to him and make a room in his house." (John 14:23)
Brothers and sisters, do we really love Jesus' Heart? To love is to die to the desires of my flesh (fornications, impurity, shamelessness, idol worship, magic, hatred, violence, jealousy, anger, ambition, division, faction, rivalry, drunkenness, orgies, etc…); those things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (see Gal. 5:18). In which of these desires am I? is my Church?
We have come here to be healed, cleaned, forgiven in this jubilee year. The Lord says: "Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from my sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good… Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they be crimson red, they will be white as wool." (Is. 1:16-18). The prophet tells us in another passage of the servant song : "Destroyed because of our sins, he was crushed for our wickedness. Though his punishment we are made whole; by his wounds we are healed." (Is. 53:5).
Let us allow Him to heal us. If the distressed invokes the Lord, He will listen to him. It is necessary that we understand, and that we accept that the true ecumenism or unity among Christians will be given as the fruit of our bowing down before God's powerful hand. (1 P. 5:6). The contrite and humiliated heart attracts God's blessing. Lower yourselves before God, and He will raise you up (Jam. 4:10).
The "Mea Culpa" that the Church invites us to live in this jubilee year does not have to be an empty or superficial rite, lacking in an authentic spirit of contrition. We have to open the heart to the flame of the Holy Spirit so that the burning with his fire make us surrender our conceit, our pride, our arrogance. The author of Unity is and will be the Holy Spirit, that is why we have to invoke him with fervor: "COME HOLY SPIRIT".
The Holy Father John Paul II, on May 9th 1999, in front of the Patriarch Teoctist of Romania, pointed out, among other things in his homily: "I strongly desire and pray that we can arrive as soon as we can to full fraternal communion between all believers in Christ in the West and in the East. For this unity, enlivened by love, prayed the divine master in the cenacle the day before his passion and death.
This unity among Christians is above all the work of the Holy Spirit, whom we should invoke without ceasing. On the day of Pentecost, the Apostles, who up until that moment were inhibited and afraid, were completely filled with courage and apostolic zeal.
At the end of the second millennium, the paths that went their own ways will begin to move nearer and we are witnessing the intensification of the ecumenical movement with the aim of reaching full unity among believers…" (Ecclesia, 22/9/99, p. 37)
God's love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Rom. 5:5). Why isn't that love noticeable among Christians? What are we lacking? I think, with sincere humility, that we are not aware of our condition as Children of God....... We have let the Devil's lies, the world's snare, and the body's passions to enslave us. These three enemies determine us, chase us, make us give in and many times kill any vestige or image of God in us. In this pitiful condition, we have a hard time accepting the great Mercy that God has had in Christ for us. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Jesus came to reveal to us the mysterious face of the Father. He is the Father's Sacrament, whoever sees Him sees the Father (John 14:9). For this reason his death is our liberation and his resurrection our glory. Jesus, died and resurrected, communicates us his Spirit in order to be able to call His Father and our Father "Abba!"....... We have not received the spirit of slaves in order to relapse into fear. Love throws out fear, for this reason, the authentic disciple of Jesus doesn't fear the future, doesn't become frightened in the face of threats, for he knows very well that we are more than winners in Christ. He has conquered all of our enemies put together.
"The Spirit assures our spirit that we are sons and daughters of God. If we are children, we are heirs, too. Ours will be the inheritance of God and we will share it with Christ; for if we now suffer with him, we will also share Glory with him." (Rom. 8:16)
Can there be, for a human, greater dignity than to be the Child of God? What kind of love has the Father for us in order to call us Children of God, because We are! (1 Jn 3:1)
In the measure that each one of us becomes aware of his status as Child of God he will make an effort to live in Holiness. He will desire to be pleasing in God's eyes. Nothing satisfies more the Father trice holy than that his children become saints.
Holiness is the adornment of his house, says the psalm (93:5) and also, his will is that we become saints (1 Ts. 4:3)
In my pastoral experience, the greater tragedy that I have witnesses in God's people, even in the souls that are consecrated, is a resistance and opposition to live in holiness. Without holiness no one will see God (Acts 12:14). My status as wretched creature is not a hindrance to the sanctifying grace, if I keep a profound desire of holiness. Each one of us, like Saint Paul the Apostle, will have his own thorn by Satan (understood as frailty or weakness), but let us not forget the Lord's words: "My grace is enough for you; my strength is revealed in weakness". (2 Cor. 12:9)
How many of you have thought seriously about this matter: I want to be saint? "What we shall be has not yet been shown. Yet when he appears in his glory, we know that we shall be like him, for then we shall see him as he is." (1 Jn 3:2)
When I realize my status as Child of God, I will understand in the Spirit that each man is my brother and is the object of my love, respect and affection.
When I am convinced of my status as Child of God I will accept with sincere love the one who is by my side without caring whether he is an Orthodox, a Lutheran, a Calvinist, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Pentecostal or interdenominational. My eyes will be able to look at him with a pure soul, without blemish and deceitfulness. And Love will rise above restrictions and dogmatic stances. As Saint John of the Cross says, in the evening, we will be examined according to our love. "Love one another with a pure heart," (1 P. 1:22b). "Love will cover a multitude of our sins" (1 P. 4:8). Love can do anything because it comes from God and God is love.
Let us look at ourselves for a couple of seconds to the eye and ask: Am I convinced of my Faith, that your Father is my Father, that your God is my God, and that then you are my brother and my sister? Give me your hand and you will be my brother. If we can unite our hands, why cannot we unite our hearts?
The Holy Father, in his boldness for unity, said in Romania: "We are only a few days away from the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era. Men have turned their eyes on us. They wait, sharpen their ears to hear from us, even more from our lives than from our words, the old announcement: "We have found the Messiah." They want to see whether we are also capable of setting aside the nets of our pride and of our fears in order to preach a year of grace of the Lord. Let us go through that threshold with our martyrs, with all those who gave their lives for the faith: orthodox, catholics, anglicans, protestants. The blood of the martyrs has always been the seed that gives life to new faithful in Christ. But, we have to die to ourselves and burry the ancient man in the waters of regeneration, in order to be born again as new creatures. We cannot neglect Christ's call and the expectations of the world, to cease to unite our voices so that Christ's eternal Word echoes more and louder for the new generations" (Ecclesia 11/6/99, p. 36)
This is a Divine Nuptial call for Reconciliation and Unity. Let us us be reconciled with God and with our brother. The voice of our Beloved echoes and we can perceive the sound of his steps; Wouldn't be our best welcome that he finds us reconciled in Love? What are we waiting for?
"The voice of my Lover! Behold he comes, springing across the mountains, jumping aver the hills…
My lover speaks to me: Arise my love, my beautiful one! Come, the winter is gone, the rains are over." (Songs 2: 8-11)
The one who is seated at the right hand of the Father (Jesus-Christ) will return as He promised. It is time to wake up from lethargy, the light dispels the darkness and the night of disunity gives way to the daylight of reconciliation. The winter of incomprehension and of disputes among Christians cannot resist to the coming of the Spirit's spring, the days of unification, of recreation and sanctification of God's people.
Unity! Unity! That was the spontaneous cry of the crowd in Romania with the Pope's visit. May unity and peace be our cry in Jesus' land, as it was sung on the first Christmas: "Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth for God is blessing humankind." (Lk. 2:14)
The time has come to convince the world of the Gospel's power. We are not witnesses to someone deceased, but to the resurrected one. There is no other name given to men for which we can be saved. Only Jesus-Christ is the only answer, the only way, the only truth. Never has been heard in history of a God that, for love, would have been made flesh and lived among men. Moreover, that for love he would give himself to the worst possible death and then proclaim from the kingdom of death life's triumph. "Death, where is your victory? Death has been devoured by victory". (1 Cor. 15:55b)
If Christ has not Resurrected our faith is useless, as well as our hope and this effort for unity which we, as believers in him, make today.
He promised to be with us until the end of times. He is here today with us, and expects from each one of us that we be burning coal by his spirit to set the earth aflame with his love. "I have come to bring fire upon earth and how I wish it were already kindled." (Luk. 12:49)
Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president of the committee for the great jubilee of 2000, told of a beautiful anecdote in his homily for the closing ceremony to the week of prayer for the unity of Saint Paul outside the city. This legend was entrusted to him by an orthodox monk.
When Christ, after Easter, was ascending into Heaven, he glanced at the earth, and saw it immersed in darkness, except for little lights which shone in the city of Jerusalem. During the ascension, he came across the archangel Gabriel, who used to make his missions to the earth, and who asked the Lord: "What are those little lights?" Christ answered him: "they are the apostles gathered around my mother; and my plan is to send, as soon as I get to Heaven, the Holy Spirit, so that those little flames will turn into a big fire that will enkindle with love the whole earth." Gabriel dared to ask: "And, What would you do if the plan fails?" After some moments of silence, the Lord answered: "I do not have any plans." (L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO N.4 (1.622) 28/1/2000 p. 12) And the Cardinal asks in turn: Are we convinced that this is the Lord's only plan? The only one that can win over the divisive forces?
Dear brothers and sisters, I want to make a strong appeal to you at the end of my intervention, which comes out of my Heart. Since I was a little kid, I saw in my family the drama of division.
In 1979, in the Church of Reconciliation, brother Roger Schutz prayed for me in front of the Icon of the Virgin, and it awakened in me a phase that has turned into a maxim of my priestly ministry: "passion for unity." In the name of Jesus-Christ, I ask you to let yourselves be reconciled with God.
I represent a small country of merely two and a half million of inhabitants with a privileged geographic location. Since the discovery of America, it has served as a country of transit for all peoples. In our national emblem, there is the Latin phrase: Pro mundi beneficio.
The Panama Canal is not only a marvelous work of human inventiveness. It is for me a symbol where, for merely 14 kilometers long and through an array of dams, come together two oceans: the Atlantic and the Pacific. What makes this union possible?
Two factors: 1. The opening of a dam 2. The nourishment of fresh waters of a lake called Gatϊn, which, once the floodgates opened, allow the ships to go through one dam to the other.
This human inventiveness, God's gift to men, allows me to make the following allegory:
The Lord's Heart is an open channel into which all men can immerse themselves and navigate without fear. He desires that his three dams: CATHOLICS, ORTHODOXS AND PROTESTANTS, open our floodgates, so that the fresh waters of his Holy Spirit flow through one another without resistance. Open your doors to the Redeemer, without fear, let us not be afraid. That we may all be able to travel about the ocean of God's love, which is the open side of Christ, Channel of Grace. These two great oceans that are connected through the Panama Canal, represent to me the Hearts of Jesus and Mary that are only one through the spirit. My passion for unity encourages me to ask you in the name of those two Hearts and who cry out "Love me" (when you love your neighbor you are loving me). May we compromise with concrete acts to live and act in Love. Let us ask for the feelings of his Heart.
"Jesus, teach me to search what you searched for, to feel what you felt, to speak what you spoke, to think what you thought, to love what you Love."
Let no one leave this Nuptial calling as he arrived, may we all be completely transformed by Love. I raise my prayer and my eternal gratitude to the organizers, especially to Vassula Ryden, for having trusted me to expound this reflection.
Jesus-Christ, Son of the Living God, our Lord and Savior, Beginning and End, You, who are the same yesterday and today and for ever, to you I raise my humble prayer with the feelings of your heart. That all may be one, like you are one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Send once more upon this ecumenical gathering the Consoler, send your fire; touch, heal, transform, renew and free our sick hearts. Heal the wounds of our division, resentments, fears and mutual distrust. Heal us from prejudice, and from false appreciations and fearful judgments between us.
Come Spirit, giver of life, and place your living breath upon our dried bones. Come Spirit and prepare our souls by making them beautiful with you new gifts and perfuming them with the odor of virtues. Awake in each heart, the thirst for holiness, for everything that you touch you sanctify. Come Spirit and renew the face of this world, of our Church and of all peoples, so that all hatred and violence disappear, the noise of guns is silenced for ever and that it may give way to a culture of fraternity where all men have a right to the daily Bread, and that the dignity of every man and woman be respected.
Come Holy Spirit and with the new era, mother of reconciliation, mother of the new humankind, Most Holy Mother, may all races, peoples, and nations find each other. May we, all under your Mantle, be able to speak in one single language about God's children, the language of Love. That Love which sprang from the open side of the crucified will endure forever. Yours be glory, power, and praise forever and ever. Amen, amen and amen.
Fr. Teofilo Cristobal of the Consoler Director of Divine Mercy's Fraternity of Jesus and Mary's Sacred Hearts. Panama.