Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
(Acts 20:28-38; John 17:11b-19)
Passing a large Evangelical church, the deacon commented over its recent history. He said that a few years ago after a disagreement with the pastor, a member formed his own church. The two Christian churches were among several others in the village of no more than a thousand people.
The proliferation of separate churches is a common phenomenon. It is said that there are more than forty thousand Christian denominations world-wide. This development betrays Jesus’ prayer for unity among his followers in today’s gospel.
Jesus prays that his disciples may not be given to the ways of the world. He wants them to avoid egotism which results in division. In contrast, they are to practice humility which respects the authority established in his apostles. As the first reading attests, church unity has proven to be a daunting challenge. Since in its early days, the Church has contended with people who “pervert the truth” to gather their own followers.
Given this reality, it is remarkable that the Catholic Church encompasses a seventh of the world’s population. It also maintains the faith of the apostles. But these facts cannot be taken as reasons for complacency. We must strive to control our rebellious tendencies. We too may become so dissatisfied that we want to form another sect. We also should work for reconciliation with other Christian communities. This means understanding our Catholic system of thought so that we might share it with others. It also involves prayer for unity and penance for past offenses.