Right from the beginning of the church there have been arguments and disagreements. We can read all about them in the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus, in today’s gospel reading, is praying for the Church and for those he had chosen. Already there has been one casualty, Judas, “the one who chose to be lost.”
Christ’s prayer for us is that we be true to his name, and that we be protected from the evil one. Jesus prays: “‘Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name,so that they may be one like us.”
I think that we all agree that the disunity among Christians today is a scandal. There is no easy solution or quick fix that will unite us all. We are called to experience and work for the unity that is modelled on the imitate union of the Father and the Son. We need to be serious about healing our relationship with God, our relationship with the others and allow God to heal the disunity within our own hearts. This time between Ascension and Pentecost is a time to pray together as followers of Christ.
The bishops of England and Wales on their website suggest “Thy Kingdom Come” which they say offers us the opportunity to pray alongside our brothers and sisters from other Christian denominations for people to come closer to Christ.
“We can do this using the prayers of our own tradition, by going to Mass, or exploring other Catholic forms of prayer. We hope to inspire and enable practicing Catholics to pray for evangelisation – specifically praying for five members of their family or friends to come closer to Christ – as they pray “Thy Kingdom Come” from the Ascension to Pentecost.”
As I write there seems to be no letup of the renewed violence and killing in the Holy Land. Gaza is suffering daily and nightly bombings; rockets are also being launched into Israel. There is an interview with Parish Priest of the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, Father Gabriel Romanelli, on the Bishops website. His community is very small, 133 people, but very active and they extend their support beyond the Christian Arab community to their Muslim neighbours.
He says there are 1,077 Christians in Gaza altogether among two million Muslim citizens; Palestinians. in answer to the question, “What help do you need?’ he says:
“I think there are three key things. First of all, the spiritual help, the prayer and sacrifices for this population and for all the people of the Holy Land – in Israel and Palestine, but particularly in Gaza Strip. For many years we have been in a difficult situation, as you know, and so please pray for them, to offer the sacrifices – I ask you to pray for them.
Second, the existential or moral support. So, to share the communications, to let the people know about the situation, the reality, it is necessary to be clear. It is not a good situation, but it’s necessary that people in the world understand the situation. It is necessary sometimes to show your closeness to the people so they feel that they are not abandoned.
Third, the material help, through, for example, the Latin Patriarchate, our diocese. If there are people that can help, it is necessary to help because the need is real. It is not imagined. There was a very real need before these days. So after this destruction, we will need – the people will need – material help.
I want to thank the Conference of Bishops, the priests, the people in all your countries –not only the USA and the UK. Also our friends – for example the Holy Land Coordination of bishops, for example. We feel like the Catholic Church is with us. It’s the hand of Jesus, the Lord, to console us, to comfort us, to give us power to continue to serve Our Lord Jesus and the Holy Virgin Mary. So thank you very much. And God bless you always.”