What does it mean to pray for Christian unity? To seek the unity of Christians is to seek to be united in one Spirit. It goes beyond what can be expressed in the words of doctrine. It goes even beyond our shared sacramental life. It has to do with the vision & enjoyment of God himself; seeking the unity of the Trinity. For this Jesus prayed to his Father “that they may be one, as we are one, I in them & you in me, that they may be completely one.” [Jn17; 22&23] it is not simply a matter of negotiations & reformulations, but is the gift from God, is the gift of God’s own self. It is the unity of the Kingdom, & it is not to be given in full before the Kingdom. In the meantime what we really have to be concerned about is not so much Christian unity as Christian disunity. There are so many kinds of disunity, so many ways in which Christians have discovered they are separated from each other. All that the ecumenical movement can do is to seek out those nearest to hand, & those that seem most likely to be curable, & try to heal them. We cannot have any grandiose plan for bringing about the unity of all Christians; that would be like having a plan for the total & complete health of all the human race. All we can do is to hope to cure some of the wounds & diseases that are close to us. Christian divisions do not arise from weakness, from people failing in commitment to Christ. They arise from people striving to be faithful to the gospel while being so concerned with their own kind of striving that they become blind to the strivings of others. Christians discover, to their surprise, that they are separated. It is certainly not something they seek, it comes from a kind of neglect of community. There are, & there have to be, many different ways of expressing the gospel, the good news which transcends any possible account of it. Different theologies, different Churches too, which can & should develop different customs, diverse forms of worship. All these contribute to the one body, to the diversity; the catholicity of the Church. Diversity, excellent & necessary, presents dangers too, giving rise to separateness, where Christians feel that others have drifted away from communion, have excommunicated themselves, have preferred their own way to the whole body. When this happens some churches try to abolish diversity altogether, others become complacent about separateness, hence the monolithic, exclusive, mot uncatholic character of the Catholic Church in the last few centuries, & the strange multiplicity of Protestant churches. The answer isn’t in imposing uniformity or in accepting division. The real sin of disunity does not lie in what has happened in the past, but in what is happening now, in our failure to heal the divisions. Our fathers were, for the most part, very good men, passionately concerned for the purity of the gospel. But they were limited, & maybe a little careless at first, taken unawares by the disasters & divisions that followed. What we have to repent for is not the sins of our fathers, but our own failure to deal with the mess. Important arguments of great & good people intensely concerned for the truth of the gospel, are now only quarrels of little, mean people concerned mostly for the status of their own groups. Today there are great & good Christians who find they must disagree about, say, the meaning of the Church of the poor.about what it means to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim liberation to captives & to those who are oppressed. We need not just a determination to heal the wounds of the past, but to warn about new wounds in the future. We must clear up the irrelevant divisions of the past, not by forgetting or ignoring them, but by going back to the Reformation to recapture in charity the passion for the truth of the gospel that people then had on both sides, a passion that can take us now not into division but toward the one Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit of love.” [God, Christ & Us ; Herbert McCabe OP]
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity finishes on Monday 25 January 2021, the feast of the Conversion of St Paul. At our three Masses last weekend, our numbers steadied at 41[ 38 the weekend before after 58 prior to the latest lockdown & heightened fears of the variant ]. I spoke at all three Masses about the prudence of reducing Masses, realising, with current numbers, we could all gather for one weekend Mass. To alleviate any risk of having increased numbers of us in one space at one time, we will from next weekend 30 & 31 Jan 2021, drop the 6pm Sat Vigil Mass, where only six came last weekend, & retain 10am at OL&SB & 4pm at OL&HA. As soon as the lockdown finishes we can, after discussion with you, revert to a different provision. Until then, in full unity with each other, do remember our need of each & every one of you in our unity in prayer & spirit, witnessing to our ongoing commitment to togetherness.
Our Parish continues to provide food through the Food Initiative at a cost of £200 a month. I hope those in our own Village who may be struggling to provide food for their children in this ongoing & increasing crisis in health & in the economy, will be warmly encouraged to benefit from our Food Initiative, where it is possible to approach Ray & Deb in the Village Shop, & quietly ask for a bag of food essentials which will be delivered to your door. This has been working well since the lockdown began, & it could be more of us in the Village will find themselves in ever deeper need of help, & we would encourage them to ask. It isn’t charity, it is basic good bread & butter Christian discipleship which, at such times of crisis, is asked of us in our plenty. Across the Village there is deep appreciation for the good natured & generous service given by Ray & Deb throughout the crisis, who regularly go the extra mile for us. Food donations to Middlesbrough Food Bank via cash in envelope to Parish House or direct via firstname.lastname@example.org
Could I remind you of the sterling work of our own SVP group in the Parish, who are there, willing & able to help anyone in any form of difficulty, or those who would value a phone call now & again in the midst of the lockdown. Do please contact Mary Borrett email@example.com or the national website www.svp.org.uk