“Where are there lots of colors, Colton?” “In heaven, dad. That’s where all the rainbow colors are.” –Todd Burpo, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone (Is 9:1).”
Today’s Gospel tells about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about light shining on those who dwell in darkness. Coinciding with this, the majority of the Christendom celebrates the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which started from January 18, former feast of the Chair of St. Peter and will end on the 25th, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. These circumstances seem to call us to reflect on Christian unity.
The Church was, is and will always be one as there is only one Jesus Christ with one mystical body, as there is only one God in three Persons. And all Christians believe in the oneness of the Church. “We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” as professed in the Nicene Creed recited in Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican liturgy and in many Protestant church worship services. Contrary to the customs of His day, where it is the disciples and students who seek out a rabbi under whom they will study, it was Jesus who seek out and called His disciples, without inquiring about their qualifications, personalities and family backgrounds. For Jesus and for the Kingdom, it is availability rather than ability that matters. It is availability for the mission, rather than our historical disputes, our doctrinal differences and obstinate biases, that matters. May our common availability to Jesus and for His Kingdom be the beginning of Christian unity. As the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity exhorts: “The love of Christ impels us (2 Cor 5:14)!” The heart of all our churches is none other than the person of Jesus Christ and His love which calls us: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men (Mat 14:19).” Now, how can we gather people for the Kingdom if we ourselves are scattered, divided and at odds against one another?
“I urge you brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose (1 Cor 1:10).”
Above the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, leaning outside a window sill, lies a concrete and very powerful symbol of Christian division: a ladder maybe left by a mason during a repair of the church in the 18th century remains unmoved even up to now. The reason for this is that nothing can be moved or changed in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher unless the six Christian denominations who claim custody of the sanctuary agree with one another. By a pontifical order in 1964, Pope Paul VI decreed that the ladder will remain unmoved unto the day when all Christian divisions will finally be healed.
Photo from Wikipedia: The Immovable Ladder
“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:13)”
The visible light is a spectrum and so is Christ’s light. It may be a spectrum of different cultures, sects and denominations, and some may be brighter than others, yet light is light. There is only one light, and this light, united, is the sole answer to the many great and various forms of darkness in our world today. God is greater than any church or all the churches put together, He continues to operate despite our weaknesses and our divisions. And it is only by Jesus that we can be united and so we sing with the Psalmist:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation! (Ps 27)”