It is a providential occurrence that the inauguration of Joseph Biden as the 46th president of the United States is taking place during the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Jesus was clear in the Gospel that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). Against the devil’s work of isolation, alienation and separation, Jesus came to gather and unite. On the vigil of his crucifixion, when he could have easily been distracted by the details of his imminent fulfillment of gruesome biblical prophecies, he, rather, prayed four times that his disciples “may be one,” just as the Persons of the Blessed Trinity are one (John 17:11, 21-23). The fulfillment of his mission, he suggested, hinged on Christian unity: Otherwise, he said, the world would not be able to believe in the Incarnation or in the Father’s love (17:23).
Jesus’ prayer for unity not only reveals something about God and our being made in his image, but also about the priority Jesus gives to communion among his followers. That’s why his prayer will always remain an urgent ecumenical imperative: Christians cannot sincerely pray, “Thy will be done” and not simultaneously hunger, beg and work for unity among the baptized.
Christian unity, however, is a means, not an end. It is meant to be an efficacious, exemplary sign of the communion to which God calls all human beings. God created Adam and Eve in his own image not so that they would live thereafter as Cain and Abel, Jew or Gentile, or slave or free. He wants Christians to reveal the divine image of communion so that the Church may become a credible, effective collaborator in the Redeemer’s mission of gathering the lost sheep and reconciling all things in himself (Colossians 1:20).
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