Be concerned about unity always

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

WHATEVER may be our differences and conflicts, which are unavoidable in our life and some of which may even be very serious, we should always be concerned about unity, not only trying to keep it but also trying to build it up, even at the instance precisely of our differences and conflicts.

Our differences and conflicts need not be divisive. If handled with the spirit of Christ, they can even generate the force to strengthen our unity. Our unity is not uniformity. We are not expected to agree on everything, and much less, in the same way, and to the same degree. Especially in matters of opinion, taste, and preferences, we are expected to have a wide range of variety, even to the point of getting in conflict.

We need to live out that ultimate desire of Christ which he expressed in his priestly prayer just before his passion and death. “My prayer is…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…May they be brought to complete unity…” (Jn 17,20 ff)

This would, of course, require us to have the same mind, the same attitude and ways of Christ. To gather us into one family, he finally offered his life for us. He did not simply stop at telling us what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust. Even on the cross, he offered forgiveness to those who crucified him.

We have to imitate this example of Christ, his example of true charity that goes all the way to being merciful and magnanimous. We know that he suffered the worst injustice in the whole history of mankind. While we can presume that he was most interested in having justice accorded to him, he eventually forewent it, since the greater good was the salvation of mankind.

This attitude shown by Christ should always be ours too. Yes, we are interested in justice, but given our human condition that will always be marked by weaknesses, mistakes, failures, and sin, we should be ready to forego human justice to live out the more important value in our life, our love-driven unity among ourselves as children of God.

Thus, we have to learn how to be patient, compassionate and forgiving with everyone. In fact, we need to be pro-active in this kind of attitude, not waiting for others to somehow deserve our patience, compassion and mercy. We should just reach out to them.

That is why, St. Paul one time said: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6,2) We have to initiate that bearing of one another’s burdens, going beyond the condition of whether one deserves to be helped or not.

This does not mean that we should not be interested in the requirements of human justice. We should be, but always in the context of charity, never in anger or in the spirit of revenge.

But we always have to remember also that our human justice, no matter how well pursued, cannot be expected to resolve all our differences and conflicts. Thus, when we find ourselves in a dead-end insofar as justice is concerned, we should just learn to suffer the consequences the way Christ suffered the consequences of the imperfections of human justice.

In some practical terms, to maintain unity some immediate things to keep in mind are not to bring out the differences in public or even through gossips, avoid creating factions, avoid sowing intrigues and casting aspersions on those with whom we may disagree over something, etc.

Differences and conflicts should be resolved in the proper for without involving those who have no interest or are not involved in the issues. If ever things have to be discussed in public, it should be done with due decorum and courtesy. Inflammatory language and tone can only create division. In our differences and conflicts, we should strive to find areas of agreement rather than look for more areas of disagreement.