I wrote this yesterday while sitting in a coffee shop in Houston, away from a computer or an Internet connection.
The Office of Readings for [yesterday] (Saturday of the 7th Week of Easter) had two interesting readings: the first was the entire third letter of St. John (don’t worry, it is only 14 verses) and the second was from a sermon from “a sixth-century African author”.
The third letter of John is telling of some unrest in the developing church. John writes to Gaius, first discussing those that help the brothers even though they are strangers. Later, he voices frustration that the leader of the local church (who according to St. John loves being a leader) not only doesn’t help fellow members of the faith who travel into his area, but forbids, on pain of excommunication, anyone from the church to assist.
The sixth-century author writes more of the unity of the church. The author mentions that at the first Pentecost (the birthday of the Church, which [was celebrated today]), the apostles could speak all languages and that was seen as a sign of the Spirit. Yet today (both in the sixth and twenty-first centuries), few after their confirmation are blessed with such a gift. What are we to reply when we are quested about this disparity?
We do, in fact, speak all languages, as we are members of the Church, the body of Christ, and the Church speaks all languages. Ergo, God’s promise of speaking in tongues is true in our unity. Our gifts are not only the gifts which we are individually blessed with, but the gifts of the entire community.
Additionally, therefore, as we benefit from the gifts given to all, we are to share our gifts with the community.
While our Christian church is quite fragmented–Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, these new “Faith” preachers, etc–and our common efforts to reflect the unity we are called to aren’t always actually helpful (e.g. some Christian denominations making a very public action of transferring ministers of one faith into another), we must strive to that unity.
How are we to do this? Through dialog, discussion, prayer. We must represent our faith true to our understanding, but open to others. We must look at Scripture, tradition and the intersection of these things with open minds and hearts. We must strive to understand the correct role of the Bible, the correct role of Tradition, the reason for both the words in Scripture and the root of Tradition. We do not need to look exactly alike, but there must be a common standard.
For the Church, we see the unity in the role of Peter quite important, but more so, the source and summit of our faith–the Eucharist–the humble bread and wine being transformed through the power granted to the priest as part of the one sacrifice on the Cross into the Body and Blood of Christ that we are mandated to consume and share.
It’s a long road, but one that must be traveled, if we’re to witness to the Glory of God the Father through Jesus Christ.
The Office of Readings–the entire office actually–is so full of wisdom. The entire Liturgy of the Church directs us to a life enhanced to the fullness of the Word–Our Lord, Jesus Christ.