"God's desire for unity depends on each one."

Not only during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, but throughout the year, we must all ask ourselves the following questions What should I do in the face of the challenge of unity?

January 25, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

Detail of a woman praying the Rosary at the All Souls initiative that promotes interfaith understanding ©CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

"The commitment to the reestablishment of the union belongs to the whole Church, it concerns both the faithful and pastors, each according to his own value, whether in daily Christian life or in theological and historical research" (Unitatis Redintegratio 5).

Although this clear and categorical affirmation of the Second Vatican Council, specifically the Decree on Ecumenism, is nearly 60 years away, we can affirm that this call to promote unity among Christians is still a pending task.

In the concrete and practical way of living and understanding the faith experience of "ordinary" Christians, we do not perceive an interest, a search or a committed and strong concern for unity - not only with other Christian confessions but also within the communities to which they belong.

In fact, the ecumenical vocation -When we understand and know what it is and do not look at it with suspicion or suspicion of a certain relativism, fruit and fashion of this pluralistic postmodern society, it is generally conceived as a "thing" of some specific Christians who, due to very specific circumstances, have committed themselves to this cause.

But the reality is that the eternal plan of God the Trinity has been revealed to us as a plan for the communion of men among themselves and with God, and this is the ultimate reason for creation, for the history of salvation, for the incarnation and for the death and resurrection of Christ: to receive and welcome, thanks to the gift of the Spirit, the unity of all peoples in Christ through the Spirit towards the Father who as paschal grace has been poured out upon us: "Now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made the two into one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility" (Eph 2:13-14).

Communion is what God has given us as a gift in Christ Jesus and what he expects to receive from us in response. For all this, we believers, each from our own vocation and mission in the Church, are called to work for unity.

Spiritual ecumenism

There are several ways to deploy this mission. First, there is the spiritual ecumenism by which, through prayer, we open ourselves to receive God's gift, whose sign and fruit is unity.

When Christians of different confessions gather to pray together, we recognize and express the real unity that already exists among us, since, grafted into Christ by baptism, we can address the Father together to invoke him, thus manifesting our common condition as children and brothers and sisters.

This ecumenism spirituality is modeling in believers a way of being in the world marked by attitudes of reconciliation, dialogue, peace, acceptance, listening and openness to others, recognizing their dignity, the value of their convictions - even if different from one's own - their experience of faith and their witness.

This is how respect and esteem for the other is forged, thanks to mutual knowledge, which is the foundation of the ecumenism of friendship.

Ecumenism of martyrdom

Pope Francis has on several occasions made mention of the ecumenism of martyrdom. "The martyrs belong to all the Churches and their suffering constitutes an "ecumenism of blood" that transcends historical divisions among Christians, calling us all to promote the visible unity of the disciples of Christ," (Joint Declaration of Francis and Karekin II in St. Etchmiadzin, Republic of Armenia, June 26, 2016).

There are many believers of various Christian confessions who have given their lives to confess their faith in Christ. Even though they belong to other Christian communities, we recognize their condition as true martyrs and witnesses.

This painful drama, at the same time an event of grace because of the witness of strong love for Christ that it expresses, is already a sign of unity and is also a seed of communion and peace for the world.

Theological ecumenism.

In a more specific but equally very necessary area, there is the theological ecumenismo. Linked to university, philosophical, theological and historical contexts, it involves reflection and research on the Christian faith and its various expressions in the different confessions in order to seek ways of dialogue and doctrinal communion.

This practice of ecumenism requires a serious doctrinal preparation in order to be able to give a reason for one's own confession with personal conviction and openness to listening and dialogue with members of other Christian confessions, seeking ways to reach a common understanding of the revealed mysteries by getting to know one another better and delving together into the Mystery of God.

It is very significant to point out that only from a solid personal position towards one's own convictions, from a deep identity, it is possible to face a true encounter with the different and a welcoming of their positions of view, because true identity and belonging do not generate closure or immobility, on the contrary, they allow the believer, without fear, in the freedom that is born from identity, to go out to meet the other, to be open to him, to welcome him, to make a common path in the reciprocal exchange of goods and mutual gifts.

Ecumenism of charity

Finally, there is the ecumenism of charity which seeks to face social and political challenges common to all Christians where we can express a united testimony of the new way of living and being in reality, of treating and loving people, which is born of the Gospel.

This practical ecumenism is in the background of the week of prayer for Christian unity that we are about to finish this year 2023 and that has as its motto "Do good; practice justice." (Is 1:17).

The texts and materials that have been proposed for meditation and reflection this week have been prepared by the Minnesota Council of Churches in collaboration with the Catholic Church, primarily the Diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Christians in this North American state have wanted to echo the problem of racism, still present in American society. This wound of exclusion and racial marginalization requires an ecumenical reflection because, in many cases and for a long time, it was defended and sustained by those who recognized themselves as Christians.

It is therefore absolutely necessary to recognize this guilt and to promote spaces and concrete acts of reconciliation and forgiveness, of welcoming and respecting those who are different, the foreigner, the immigrant, recognizing in all their sacred dignity and the hidden presence of Christ in every human being since, through the incarnation, Christ has united himself in a certain way to every human being.

The ongoing question of this week of prayer for unity and that can only be answered by each one in the mystery of freedom is: What should I do? We must ask ourselves this question with courage because there is a unique and personal yes that can only be given by each one in favor of ecumenism. God's great desire for unity also depends on you.

The authorSister Carolina Blázquez OSA

Prioress of the Monastery of the Conversion, in Sotillo de la Adrada (Avila). She is also a professor in the Faculty of Theology at the San Dámaso Ecclesiastical University in Madrid.

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