From today's second reading (1 Corinthians 1:10 - 17), more of the Holy Spirit's sentiments about visible Christian unity in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church:
|I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. From what Chloe’s people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you. What I mean are all these slogans that you have, like: ‘I am for Paul’, ‘I am for Apollos’, ‘I am for Cephas’, ‘I am for Christ’. Has Christ been parcelled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.|
Now the Gospel reading (Matthew 4:12 - 23) might give us the most straightforward clue to unity among divided Christians today. As Herr Shutz has helped me understand, unity will be achieved by all Christians following Christ. And as I have learned from Mark Shea, this requires all to give a thorough and thoroughly meditated answer to Christ's most pressing question to all who would be his followers: "who do you say that I am?" I have to admit that I am not convinced with the answers coming from those who believe that the answer must conform with the times. Making the answer more relevant to modern hearers does not mean changing the answer, but merely in delivering it differently. Changing the answer is not an option, for Christ is the same yesterday, today and for always, objectively true, the Son of God who came to redeem us from sin by his sacrifice on the cross, because he loves us. This gospel, however, can be obscured by the squabbling among those who believe it, and that is a grave scandal, for there are many more who need to hear and see this gospel as a sign that there is Jesus of Nazareth, the light that Isaiah spoke of in prophecy (Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3):
The people that walked in darkness|
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.
And how confused people might be when they hear Christians argue, `I am for Paul', `I am for Apollos', `I am for Christ' -- dare I say it then, `I am for Luther', `I am for Calvin', `I am for Rome', `I am for Constantinople'. What scandal!
But I cannot resist pointing out that in the first millennium, there was only one universal Church, whose bishops were all in accord. That unity was challenged occasionally by heresy and heterodoxy, but they knew what the norm was, because that was what Christ expected. So those occasions were occasions of grace, too, where the Holy Spirit pulled the Church back, time and again, from endless fragmentation.
Where are we now, and what have we (not) done?