Friday, May 6, 2016

Jesus’ Prayer for Unity

In the 17th chapter of John’s gospel, which we hear at Mass this weekend, Jesus offered up a passionate prayer to God the Father. On the night before He sacrificed His life for the sin of the world, He prayed that His followers “may all be as one.” Jesus desired that all those who believe in Him throughout history would be of one heart and one mind, so that by their obvious unity, unbelievers would be drawn to the saving truth of the Gospel.

Well, let’s see if Jesus’ prayer was answered. We currently have the Orthodox churches, split mostly along national lines, such as Greek, Russian, Serbian, etc.

We have in excess of 30,000 different Protestant denominations (it’s impossible to get an accurate count as new ones are being formed daily), each one convinced its particular interpretation of Scripture is right.

And of course, we have the Catholic Church, which may appear to outsiders as somewhat unified, but trust me, as a member, I know it too is wracked with splits and divisions. Unlike Protestants, these Catholic factions don’t leave to form new denominations, they instead work to change the church—or in some cases, it seems, work to kill the church—from the inside out.

Some Catholic groups want the church to drop its emphasis on “superstitions” (such as the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the existence of God, and other old-fashioned doctrines) and focus all its energies on Marxist social policies. Other groups want women to become priests; some groups want priests to get married; still others want priests to get married…to each other. But the jaw-dropping award winners are those groups which want the church to bless the act of ripping a wiggling infant from his or her mother’s womb and tossing it into a Dumpster.

Which reminds me of a popular bumper sticker: “You can’t be Catholic and Pro-Choice.” Very simple but very true. If you are Catholic, you cannot be pro-choice—and vice versa.
To be pro-choice, a person must deny a host of basic church doctrines, including the doctrine that the Bible is the Word of God. In Scripture, God is quoted as saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). If that statement is accurate, then a fetus is a unique human being and abortion is terribly wrong—end of discussion. 

When people claim abortion is acceptable, they deny the accuracy of the Jeremiah verse (and many other verses), and therefore deny the accuracy and inerrancy of Scripture, which is a very un-Catholic position.

The most important church doctrine being violated by the pro-choice view is the belief that God alone is the author and Creator of life. In Psalm 139, King David expressed awe over God’s majestic, creative power: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps 139:13-14).

The pro-choice view is based on the notion that mankind is the sole authority regarding life and death issues. Mankind, not God, has the right to determine when, where, and how life is created. How incredibly prideful and arrogant! The only way to proclaim this view with a straight face is to be an avowed atheist. Anyone who holds this view while believing that God exists is, well, is a very scary person indeed.
But, thanks be to God, the tide of public opinion is slowly moving away from the Culture of Death. Before he died a few years ago, Charles Colson noted the ambivalence in the pro-choice camp. He quoted one abortion supporter as saying, “We know what’s inside those garbage bags behind the clinic. We’ve seen our friend’s sonogram.” Keep praying.

So, anyway, speaking of prayer, with all the disunity and confusion in Christendom, was Jesus’ heartfelt prayer answered? It would seem not. But we must remember that all prayers are answered by God. However, sometimes the answer is “yes,” sometimes the answer is “no,” and sometimes the answer is “wait.”

Apparently, God told His own Son to wait. Mankind’s sinful nature—our pride and selfishness and parochial prejudices—cause divisions and disunity even among those professing faith in Christ. It’s a shame, and it’s not the Lord’s will for us, but it’s a fact of life in a sinful, fallen world.

Jesus’ prayer that all believers be as one should give us some insight about what He considers important. Don’t forget, He offered this prayer when He was on the verge of being tortured and killed. If He could focus on the unity of His followers at that point in time, it must be a really crucial issue.

Maybe we could remember this the next time we’re tempted to join in the latest round of sectarian squabbles, doctrinal disputes, and dogmatic dog fights. Maybe if we instead focus on the love of God, the miracle of Creation, and the joy of the Resurrection, we’ll demonstrate the truth of the Gospel to an unbelieving world and bring more souls with us into Heaven. 

Maybe then the answer to Jesus’ prayer finally will be “yes.”

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