Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The day after Judgment Day

Below is the Vatican-provided text of Pope Francis' video message for the Day of Christian Unity in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States on May 23:

Brothers and sisters, may the peace of Christ be with you.

Forgive me if I speak in Spanish, but my English isn’t good enough for me to express myself properly. I speak in Spanish but, above all, I speak in the language of the heart.

[in Spanish:]

I have the invitation you sent me for this celebration of Christian Unity, this day of reconciliation. And I wish to join you from here. “Father, may we be one so that the world may believe you sent me”. This is the slogan, the theme of the meeting: Christ’s prayer to the Father for the grace of unity.

Today, Saturday May 23rd, from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, I will be with you spiritually and with all my heart. We will search together, we will pray together, for the grace of unity. The unity that is budding among us is that unity which begins under the seal of the one Baptism we have all received. It is the unity we are seeking along a common path. It is the spiritual unity of prayer for one another. It is the unity of our common labor on behalf of our brothers and sisters, and all those who believe in the sovereignty of Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters, division is a wound in the body of the Church of Christ. And we do not want this wound to remain open. Division is the work of the Father of Lies, the Father of Discord, who does everything possible to keep us divided.

Together today, I here in Rome and you over there, we will ask our Father to send the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and to give us the grace to be one, “so that the world may believe”. I feel like saying something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps. But there is someone who “knows” that, despite our differences, we are one. It is he who is persecuting us. It is he who is persecuting Christians today, he who is anointing us with (the blood of) martyrdom. He knows that Christians are disciples of Christ: that they are one, that they are brothers! He doesn’t care if they are Evangelicals, or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic…he doesn’t care! They are Christians. And that blood (of martyrdom) unites. Today, dear brothers and sisters, we are living an “ecumenism of blood”. This must encourage us to do what we are doing today: to pray, to dialogue together, to shorten the distance between us, to strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.

I am convinced it won’t be theologians who bring about unity among us. Theologians help us, the science of the theologians will assist us, but if we hope that theologians will agree with one another, we will reach unity the day after Judgement Day. The Holy Spirit brings about unity. Theologians are helpful, but most helpful is the goodwill of us all who are on this journey with our hearts open to the Holy Spirit!

In all humility, I join you as just another participant on this day of prayer, friendship, closeness and reflection. In the certainty that we have one Lord: Jesus is the Lord. In the certainty that this Lord is alive: Jesus is alive, the Lord lives in each one of us. In the certainty that He has sent the Spirit He promised us so that this “harmony” among all His disciples might be realized.

Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you warmly, with an embrace. I pray for you. I pray with you.

And I ask you, please, to pray for me. Because I need your prayers in order to be faithful to what the Lord wants from my Ministry.

God bless you. May God bless us all.

My comments

Roman popes have always (at least as long as I've been alive) called themselves 'the Father of all Christians,' but they have not lifted a finger (not much, anyway) to make those of us that are outside the Roman Church want to have such a 'father', let alone accept him as that.

Pope Francis, though he isn't a spitting image of his namesake, the man of God Francesco of Assisi, and though he is a Jesuit (which most non-Catholics identify as the pope's army), this pope has something of the spirit of St Francis. He is consistent in his own sort of poverty.

And that poverty is the poverty of Truth, which does not need embellishment to be what it is. Neither does it need any earthly authority to establish it. This is exactly what Christ was, and still is—the Truth—and why anyone who genuinely follows Him can be distinguished from impostors.

Francis, the bishop of Rome, its pope and patriarch, is no impostor. Nor does he allow the world to get near him to twist his words. Nor does he countenance divisions between people. Nor does he rely on himself 'to make miracles.' Like the fictional Pope Leo in the film 'Saving Grace' (1986), he says, in effect, 'I cannot make miracles. I can only pray for one.'

The miracle of today is the reunion of the Church, not by theologians in council, but by the Spirit of God, who appears unrestricted by human weakness and amidst suffering and defeat, in all those who work for peace and social justice, and in all those now being slaughtered for their faith.

I am an Orthodox Christian, but what I see in Pope Francis supports what I have always known—well, almost always: I had to grow up 'a little' before I was tall enough to see over the top of my own head—that the Church has never been divided, and cannot be, so—what do we do now?

Christianity lost in the mire of divisive doctrinal controversies helped the progress of Islam at its birth, so that it could take more than half the (Christian) Roman Empire. Modern Christianity is now divided without doctrinal controversy, just by politics, allowing Islam's next move.

What do we believe? That our salvation depends on the doctrines we believe, or in Jesus Christ? Undoubtedly, doctrines have their place, but since nowhere does Christ teach doctrines in the Holy Gospels, He teaches only Himself, why do we not resign ourselves to the Truth?

Truly, as the scriptures state, 'His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear his threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire' (Matthew 3:12). This is what Truth does, what it always does, both now, and on the Day of Judgment.

Listen to this pope, brethren, and watch him closely, and see if he doesn't continue on a path which will unashamedly put all prior popes and churchly authorities to shame, by just being who he is, a man of God in Christ, who has placed him in the breach for us, as a true image of Himself.

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