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Where is our unity in Christ today?

Catholics often take their cues from political leaders rather than the teaching of the Church

By Bob Hunt

In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul wrote: “Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near through the blood of Christ. It is he who is our peace, and who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart. In his own flesh he abolished the law with its commands and precepts, to create in himself one new man from us who had been two and to make peace, reconciling both of us to God in one body through his cross, which put that enmity to death” (Ephesians 2:13-16).

In the ancient Jewish Temple there were two courts, one for Jews and one for Gentiles. These courts were separated by a low wall. For a Gentile to pass through that wall and enter the Court of the Jews was a violation punishable by death.

St. Paul had been a Jew who persecuted Christians. He met Christ on the road to Damascus and became the Apostle to the Gentiles. In his Letter to the Ephesians, he is explaining to the Christians in Ephesus that Christ has torn down the wall that separated them according to their ethnic identities. There is no more Jew or Gentile among Christians, for all are one in Christ.

Would that it were so!

Catholics, sadly, have too often ignored St. Paul’s admonition of oneness in Christ. We have fallen to the temptation of separating ourselves according to the standards of the world, to what our culture demands.

As such, Catholics have separated ourselves along geographic, national, political, economic, academic, social, racial, and ethnic lines. When France and Germany declared war on each other during World War I, Pope Benedict XV pleaded with the Catholics of both countries to remember that they were brothers and sisters in Christ, and that they ought not be fighting each other. Unfortunately, national interests and pride trumped unity in Christ, and the Catholics of France and Germany fully participated in a war that devastated both countries.

Where is our unity in Christ today?

Catholics, no less than our non-Catholic fellow citizens, tend to think of ourselves in secular political terms of “conservative” or “liberal,” even on matters related to faith and morals. Too often, Catholics take their cues from their political or secular leaders, rather than consider the teaching of the Church. The Church is regarded as simply one voice among many to consider but, honestly, little consideration is given to what the Church has to say about matters outside what goes on in the parish. Our tradition of separation of Church and state has been taken to the extreme of insisting that our identity as baptized Catholics, our membership in the Body of Christ, our being temples of the Holy Spirit, be confined only to our personal lives, to what we do on a Sunday morning for an hour, or our personal prayers and devotions.

We may carry a rosary in our pocket or wear a crucifix around our neck, but do we carry Christ in our hearts and minds and allow Him to form our hearts and minds according to His will? If so, how can we separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters in Christ because of politics, national origin, social or economic status, academic accomplishments, or other worldly measures? Do we actually imagine that Christ cares more that our brother is a Republican or a Democrat than He does that he is a baptized member of the Body of Christ, and that we should treat our brother according to his political affiliation or views rather than as a brother in Christ? It is to Christ we must answer.

May we who are members of His Body be united to our one baptism, one faith, one Lord. May the divisions and strife that hamper our national political, economic, and social progress not infect Catholics who are called to form our hearts and minds according to the heart and mind of Christ. May we discern the will of God in all things and remain united in our love for each other and in our worship of Christ, who has torn down the walls that separate us.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

 

Bob Hunt is a husband, father, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville and is a candidate for the permanent diaconate.

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