Monday, January 18, 2010
Oneness In Love - Not Optional
"As a rabbi who directs a multifaith center in a Christian seminary, I often get asked about multifaith education...But rarely am I asked, 'Why should we be doing interfaith education at all?' A rabbinic colleague of mine put it to me this way: 'I just can't articulate why interfaith is important to focus on,' he said. 'Other than making sure we can all just get along, why does this matter?' he asked...
I do not embrace a 'why don't we all just get along' attitude toward interfaith work, and I do not believe that the world would be a better place if people of faith would just focus on a few so-called universal teachings from their religious traditions..." (Justus N. Baird, a rabbi and the director of the Center for Multifaith Education at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City)
You and I, individually and collectively as the Church, all have a unique call from God to do God's work. The key idea here is that it is God's call and God's work. Anything you and I do as followers of Jesus is guided by what he wants, not by what we want. Jesus prays: "...that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." Christians and churches need to move beyond the mistaken notion that working for ecumenical/interfaith oneness is an optional churchly activity, the sort of thing you do if you're "into it", but if you're not you get on with parish business as usual. When he visited the United States in 1987, John Paul II said:
"We are definitely committed to treading the [ecumenical] path which the
Holy Spirit has opened before us...and it is no small achievement of the
ecumenical movement that after centuries of mistrust, we humbly and
sincerely recognize in each other's communities the presence and
fruitfulness of Christ's gifts at work. Christ's call to unity is at the same
time a call to holiness and a call to greater love...Only by accepting
Christ as Lord of our lives can we empty ourselves of any negative
thinking about each other."
His words echo those of John Wesley: "The pretences for separation are innumerable but want of love is always the real cause."
The inner renewal necessary to accomplish Christ's vision requires our willingness to acknowledge our own unlovingness, our abrasiveness and rigidity in judging others, our inability, of ourselves, to hold out anything but "the sweet miracle of our empty hands", in the words of George Bernanos, to God and to one another. Thomas Merton expresses similar thoughts in his April 28, 1957 journal entry in A Search for Solitude:Pursuing the Monk's True Life: "If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russian with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians. From that secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians. If we want to bring together what is divided, we can not do so by imposing one division upon the other. If we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political and doomed to further conflict. We must contain all the divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ."