A Catholic Monthly Magazine

“That they may be one…”

by Bridget Taumoepeau

This Gospel text (John 17:11) we tend to associate with the unification of the many thousands of churches throughout the world, but recently I have been thinking about how we should apply it to our own church and the divisions within.

Many people seem to fall away from the church, but then choose to return to being more active members. My joy about this has been coloured by the fact that in that return they may be exposed to the disunity within the church. So many divides – about the importance, or otherwise, of the Second Vatican Council; about liturgy; about amalgamation of parishes; about Pope Francis; about the role of the church in the world; about compassion versus rules and regulations; about what ‘pro-life’ means, and so on.

When we think back, and read the Gospels, and the accounts of the early church in the Acts and in the Epistles, we see the difficulties the disciples encountered. We hear of those who wanted to be on the right and left hand of God - presumably they thought they were ‘right’ and important; we hear of divisions; of people taking sides; and so on. But, more importantly, we hear of the model for the followers of Christ – of community life; of care for others, especially the marginalised; of sharing; of all those qualities that Jesus taught us; above all the importance of love.

What has happened to us? Why are we divided? Why are we critical of our shepherds and of each other? Why do we think we know best? Why do we give rules and regulations such prominence? Why are we so judgemental? Why do we find change so difficult? Why do we not look more carefully and thoughtfully at the history of the Church? Why do we not rejoice in the return of lost sheep, making them welcome, rather than unloading our dissatisfactions on them?

We are blessed with a pastoral Pope, who writes, speaks and models the Gospel values – let us listen to him and, through him, to the beauty of the message of Christ - that we may be one.

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