One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church
(III Sunday in Ordinary Time A, in the Prayer Week for Christian Unity 2017)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Saint Paul, in the Second Reading of this Sunday Holy Mass taken from his First Letter to the Corinthians, strongly reprimands those Christians who falsely side with one church leader against another. A very fervent disciple of Christ, Saint Paul knows the truth that in order to save a humanity seriously broken because of sin, Jesus, the Son of God, had to shed His Blood to the last drop. Jesus laid down His own life on the cross to pay for all forms of evil caused by the wrongdoings committed by the human race.
We do know that from the beginning God created man and the universe all together in harmony and unity as one family living in one happy home. When man failed to obey God’s commandment that he should not eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and bad, he was separated from God, the very source of life, truth and happiness. Men become wolves to men. Nature turns to be deadly enemy to men who badly exploited it.
The Church founded by Christ is supposed to be a convincing proof of victory of God’s mercy and forgiveness over the forces of evil. The most visible and essential sign of a new humanity saved by the reconciling power of Christ is that peoples of different racial, cultural and religious traditions are now gathered together in one big family of God’s children.
Unity among those who believe in Christ Jesus the Lord and Savior is really the strong foundation for the building of such a new humanity.
Saint Paul himself never gets tired in the fight against the dark side of this world that reflects the true color of the devil. Sometimes, the Prince of this sinful world is smart enough to deceive people and drag them into committing bad things, such as killing innocent children, depriving the poor of their legitimate rights to basic conditions for a decent life, all those evil things they do in the name of God.
So, with his strongest words, Saint Paul questions those sheep in disguise: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
We have the reality analyzed by the Great Apostle of the difference between a life filled with the Holy Spirit and a life polluted with personal and selfish ambitions. We read this in his Letter to the Galatians, Chapter 5, verses from 16 and so on:
“I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has the desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissentions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.”
Dear sisters and Brothers,
The teaching of the Great Apostle Paul is meant for me and for you to pray to the Lord to forgive our sins for the times we have made the Church divided because of our bad thoughts, words and actions. In this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we must, you and I, pray to the Lord for mercy and forgiveness. We continue our prayer and actions to make the Church one again. This is the dream of our Lord before He went to suffer. During the Last Supper He asked God the Father: “Father, make them one as you and I are one.”
When we are one we are true disciples of Christ. No reason for you and for me to be divided. In particular, never will we be divided in the name of the One Who for our unity laid down His own life on the Cross.
We pray hard in this Holy Mass for Christian unity, for unity among peoples, for unity in our respective countries. We also pray for understanding and harmony among Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and other professions. We need unity to survive the forces of evil that seem now to be more active and dangerous than ever.
Fr. Francis Nguyen, O.P.