Oh! Christian, will you be United?

Oh! Christians, Will you be United?
christian unity
18-25 January has been marked in the calendar of the Christian community, world over, as ‘Christian Unity Week’. This is also known as ‘Unity Octave’ or ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’. This week is specially scheduled for promoting unity among all the Christian communities of the world, major and minor, on various levels.
Prayer sessions, interactions, discussions, fellowship meals and collaborative ways of reaching out to the least and the lost are some of the major ways of celebrating this week. These programmes are intended to be planned in such a way that they involve persons from all Christian communities. Such events are supposed to be organized on the local, regional, national, continental and international levels, as well.
This noble tradition of promoting unity derives from the Second World Catholic Council of Vatican in the 60s of the 20th century, which struck a historic ‘note of unity’, both among the Christian communities and among all religious and social communities of the world. ‘Nostra Aetate’, meaning ‘In our time’, is the name of the significant document that motivated this fundamental awakening for ‘a new way of being Christian’.
Accordingly, discriminating human beings in the name of ethnic origin, gender, language, caste, class, colour, creed, rite, tradition, ideology, community, culture, nationality, social customs, food habits, dress patterns, and the like, is a sheer violation of the Christian faith in God, the loving Father of all human beings and the entire creation. For that reason, sustaining fraternal relations leading to unity is the right way of being a Christian and staying united with all Christian communities, along with humans of all religious and social affiliations, is and has to be the real outcome of the radical realization mentioned above.
In view of translating the above vision into a mission, the Catholic Church instituted in course of time Pontifical Council for Christian Unity at the international level, along with offices of Christian unity at the continental, national, state and diocesan levels. Most of the Christian communities in the world established units for Christian unity on different levels, too, like World Council of Churches, National Council of Churches in India and Evangelical Fellowship of India.
Now, as a matter of fact, Christian unity is grounded in sharing, one to another, three core realities of life -- the human and spiritual ‘values’ of Jesus the great Teacher and Master, the Bible as the sacred scripture of ‘good news’ and the ‘faith’ in being part of the large family of God the Father on earth. The ‘filial experience’ of God coupled with the ‘fraternal expression’ of being a sister or brother to every human being on earth is the pathway to Christian unity. And, Christian unity, in its turn, necessarily leads, and has to lead, to unity among all religious and social communities on earth, as well.
In addition, Jesus is like a tree and all Christian communities are like the branches of that tree, just like the body having different parts perfectly blended together. Abiding by the tree and all its branches is the only way to draw the sap of life from the tree and to flourish as branches, in the spirit of sharing the divine and human life among them from the same source. ‘Love’ is the characteristic mark of being a Christian and without loving Christians of all communities, along with all other communities, no Christian can claim to love Jesus and God the Father, not at all. This is what John, a significant writer of the story of Jesus in the Bible, categorically affirmed, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen”.
Furthermore, “Do to the other what you would have him or her do to you” is the universal golden rule set on top by Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Moreover, ‘When you have loved other Christians, other believers and other human beings, you have already loved Jesus and God the Father’, and definitely not otherwise. This is the golden sum and substance of a faith or life that is worth the name on this planet. This is what the late Pope John Paul II illustrated on dialogical terms when he stated, as well, “By dialogue we open ourselves to one another, for as we open ourselves to one another, we open ourselves to God”. Yet again, Pope Francis, the most brilliant papal leader of the modern times, through his latest encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’, has summarized Christian faith, and all faiths for that matter, to ‘fraternity and social friendship’ with every person.

Therefore, on the occasion of ‘Christian Unity Week 2021’, Christian believers in India and across the globe have a razor-sharp question right in front of them, ‘Oh! Christians, will you rise above trivial private concerns and remain United?’ A ‘refresh’, and even make a ‘restart’, is called for, in favour of maintaining brotherly, sisterly and friendly relations and fellowship with all Christian communities and people of all faiths, ideologies and cultures, in our country and in the entire world. One’s faith has to be the vibrant source of motivation for contributing one’s mite in making our country and the world society more harmonious than what they are today, by staying united with one and all.
Dr MD Thomas by Fr. Dr. M. D. Thomas