Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Wineskins of Passion and Unity

Catholics, Christians and Jews Together
Monday of the Second Week 
in Ordinary Time 
January 19, 2014

It’s been a half century since Unitatis Reintegratio and Nostra Aetate, and through the years these wineskins have held so many vintages that I wonder whether its not time for new vessels of the Franciscan age and new dreams of how God might make us all one.

Pope Francis has given us a couple of hints, the first at a Jewish Synagogue in Rome, as he addressed the assembled Jews as “the holy root that produced Jesus.”  

“During all these years of friendship with our Jewish brothers in Argentina,” he recalled, “I…have questioned God many times in my prayers, especially when my mind turned to the memory of the terrible experience of the Shoah.”

“But,” he continued, “God never abandoned his covenant with Israel, and notwithstanding their suffering over the centuries, the Jewish People have kept their faith…For this, we will never be sufficiently grateful to them as a Church, but also as human beings,” he continued. “In the persistence of their faith in the God of the Covenant, they summon all, including us as Christians, to recall the fact that we are awaiting the return of the Lord as pilgrims, and must therefore always remain open to Him and never retreat from what we have already achieved.”

In other words, through suffering, God brought the Jews closer to himself. On another occasion, the Holy Father recalled how the suffering once inflicted upon the Jews is now being visited upon Christians in Syria and throughout the world.  

Perhaps, my brothers, this crucible of suffering and persecution, for Jew and Christian alike, is the new wineskin of the ecumenical and inter-religious endeavor.  Perhaps all the suffering, from Paris to Nigeria and Northern Sudan is a gift, teaching us obedience by suffering, like Christ in the reading from Hebrews today. (Cf. Hebrews 5:10).  For if the way to follow Christ is to walk with him on the via dolorosa, then how could the way of unity lead anywhere but to the foot of the Cross.

If such is true of inter-religious unity, so it is true all the more of unity among Christians, whose common boast is the Cross by which they are redeemed. “In some countries,” the Holy Father recently recalled, “they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill we are Christians. We are united in blood…”

So, if we believe that all authentic unity flows from the foot of the Cross and is nourished by the Blood of his Blessed Passion, then perhaps we can dream of new wineskins made strong by our participation in his suffering and filled with the new wine of unity.

Perhaps we can share the dream of Dr. King first proclaimed on the steps of the Lincoln memorial… “that every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low…and that the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”


It is the dream of the good and saintly Pope John XXIII as he was dying, and amidst his own participation in the Passion of the Lord, is reported to have repeated Christ’s words at the last supper over and over again: Ut unum sint:  That they all might be one.