The quest for Christian unity

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

JANUARY 25 is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, a truly dramatic story of conversion that can happen to anyone of us also. It also culminates the Christian Unity Octave that highlights the need for a continuing quest for unity among Christians as well as with everybody else who find themselves in all sorts of divisive differences and conflicts.

The readings of the day remind us, of course, of the need for continuing conversion and the mission for universal apostolate, things that everyone who wish to be consistent with his Christianity should always carry out.

That we need continuing conversion is always given. This is simply due to our very precarious condition in life. No matter how good, pious and saintly we think we are, we cannot deny that in this life we will always be assailed by the enemies of God and of our soul.

We have our weakened flesh to contend with, in the first place. Then the world around us is full of temptations. And the devil will always be scheming for our downfall, setting up traps everywhere for us.

As the Book of Job would put it, “The life of man upon earth is a warfare.” (7,1) We have to get over the myth that in this life we can achieve a stable state of sanctity and that therefore we do not need to struggle anymore.

A fixed feature of our life should be making regular examinations of conscience at the end of each day, going to regular confession, making acts of atonement and reparation, etc. We need to always enliven our spirit of penance which is not meant to put us down, but rather to make us free from what would truly put us down. We should come out of these practices with the eagerness to begin and begin again.

But we should not forget that all these practices of penance are also meant to sharpen to carry out our Christian duties, one of which is to fulfill the mission Christ has entrusted us. This is “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16,15)

We have to be ready to get interested in everyone apostolically. We should be interested both in the rich and the poor, those in the mainstream of society as well as those in the peripheries.

We have to learn how to dance with the rich and crazy as well as to get wet and dirty with the poor and miserable. We should be able to do apostolate in any part of the world. We have to learn how to be all things to all men as St. Paul said. (cfr. 1 Cor 9-22)

And our interest in them should go beyond merely human and worldly purposes and categories. We simply are not interested in them for some practical reasons alone. We should avoid getting entangled in the subordinate reasons for our apostolic interest in everyone.

The main reason for our apostolic interest in everyone should be that everyone gets back to God from whom all of us came and to whom we all belong. We have to be most interested in everyone achieving his spiritual and supernatural goal in life, in his holiness, in his becoming ‘another Christ,’ who is the pattern of our humanity and the redeemer of our damaged humanity.