Reflection-Week 12

“Spirit of Unity” 
 
Faten Mukarker, a Palestinian Christian, the author of “Leben zwischen Grenzen” shares in her book, her life and struggle between the National border and the religious border and the pain of disunity in her land and Israel. We have been hearing for years the story of the battle and struggle between Israel and Palestine. The Wall in between Israel and Palestine goes through her family garden. She shares her story with us in tears. After reading and hearing her sad and pathetic narration I asked myself, why can’t they just live together? Why must there be such hostility and division?
 
Similar thoughts came to my mind when I visited Jerusalem, and felt ashamed, especially when I visited the “Tomb Church”.  The division and conflicts among the different Church denominations are conspicuous there. Often it is the place where the demonstration of these conflicts takes place. Why can’t they work together in serving the Lord? Why is there such disunity among the Churches in the name of our Lord, who came to reconcile everyone with God and with each other and who prayed for unity and harmony among His disciples? And why do people quarrel in the name of the Lord, who taught that God is the Father of all and all are His children belonging to the same family? 
 
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans advice “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Rom15:5). 
 
Unity is a gift of God or unity is given by God: Paul says it is God who is the source of patience and encouragement and who gives us the Spirit of Unity. Perhaps we can reach unanimity or uniformity with our own means but God alone can give us the Spirit of Unity.
 
- In the letters of Paul, especially in Romans, we see how much Paul desires and thirsts for unity and harmony. It is God who desires unity and harmony. In John’s gospel, Jesus prays for His disciples, “Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me... so that they may be one just as you and I are one” (Jn.17:11b).
 
We are the body of Christ: This is what St. Paul tries to put across by using the image of the body, “Just as in one body there are many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we are many and one body in Christ… with different gifts according to the grace that has been given to us” (Romans 12:4-6).
 
… like the vine… a branch alone cannot bear fruit… it can only bear fruit if it remains in the vine (Jn. 15:4). For the vine, every branch is important. The number of branches which are healthy, which stay in union with the stem of the plant and which stay in union with other branches, increases the yield of the vine. We cannot think of a vine, the branches of which quarrel with each other. The same way, every person is important for the movement (human society). The more all live in harmony and co-operation, greater will be the fruits of peace, love and joy.
 
 - Oneness or harmony even in the midst of diversity demands openness to see the wonderful works of God. God cares and loves everyone and everything. He has made every person unique. Differences are not threats, but they add to the beauty of the world and of the human society, when they are accepted with openness – just like how flowers of different colours, shapes and fragrance add to the beauty of a garden.
 
For this we need Christ’s attitude of forgiveness: “in accord with Christ...” (Rom15:5b). Forgiveness is essential to achieve the Spirit of Unity. For a victim, forgiveness means ´letting go´ of the bitterness caused by the evil done to him/her. It involves finding relief in Christ who bears our pain. Jesus prayed on the cross and said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk.23:34). That Jesus forgave them does not mean that He accepted as good what they did. He was suffering unjustly because of their wrongdoing. He had the power to take revenge on them, to destroy them. But He decided to go beyond His pain and anger and see everything as a part of the loving plan of the Father.
 
 - Openness to the diversity... Unity in diversity rather than uniformity helps us to attain harmony. Unity is not uniformity. Everyone is unique. God has created everyone like that. That is, the differences are willed by God. Often, we have a tendency to make others like us, because we consider the differences as threats to our existence and well-being. But in reality, the differences do not threaten us. They become threats only when we consider them as threats and thus try to destroy the differences. Co-operation, not competition, is the way to peace. Recognition of the uniqueness of others, not feelings of superiority, is the way to success and harmony.
 
It is to wear the attitude of Beatitude: It is God’s approach to love... One who receives the unconditional love and mercy of God extends it to others which results in harmony. The basis for accepting others with their uniqueness is our faith that God is the Father of all. Every human being is a child of God, hence a brother or sister of mine. All belong to the same family. God loves everyone, even those who reject Him. Even when people do evil, God continues to love them as His children and tries to guide them in His path. And when someone is away from Him, He comes in search of him/her. He is Love, He is Mercy, He is Compassion, He is Generousity. Jesus asks us to have the same attitude and approach of the Father – that is to be generous in love, compassion and mercy. Even when others do evil, we should continue to love them and try and reconcile with them. Even when they are different, we should try and accept them as they are. Even when they keep away from us, we should continue to be good to them. Thus, we will follow the words and actions of Jesus.
 
Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI says “Christians need to make the first move in offering Reconciliation and establishing Peace”. Our model for reconciliation is reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. In Israel many people greet each other by saying “Shalom” which in English translates as “Peace”. In modern times, this “Peace” is often misunderstood as ceasefire or absence of tension or war. But “Shalom” means much more, it is completeness or wholeness with God, with one another and with creation. It is nothing other than the presence of God. Pope Benedict says, “That God came to be among humanity shows that God is always near and always among His people. This is the source of hope and an inspiration to reconcile oneself with God and with one’s neighbours”. St. Paul writes the same in his letter to the Colossians, “...forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col.3:13). Put off your old self… learn to recognize the characteristics of the old life, a self–centered life... and put on the new one and lead a life of harmony and reconciliation.
 
Clothing the movement in white linen” was often understood by me as a sign of blessing, a sign of the providence, mercy and protection of God. But after reflecting on Colossians 3:12-14, I was thinking that it is more than just a protection and blessing of God. It is not one-sided or one way, rather it is a call and a response. It is a gift and a responsibility. It is grace and duty. St. Paul says, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other”(Col.3:12). God in His mercy called and appointed us in this movement to be holy and beloved to Him, to wear this attitude of Beatitude and accomplish everything in union with him. Put off the old man and clothe your life and thinking deliberately with these seven qualities that reflect the life and temperament of Jesus.   As God’s chosen people we ought to put on at every moment of our lives these qualities of Jesus, these qualities of grace. And this is none other than the Jesus Youth lifestyle. Having given us this beautiful lifestyle, St. Paul tells us to wrap it all around with the bond of love. “And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Love binds everything together. Put on the cloak of love.
 
Since we are the body of Christ… let the Love and Peace of Christ reign in our hearts and let us live in His Spirit of Unity.
 
Rev. Fr. Ajy Mooleparambil CMI
Schermbeck, Germany  

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