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May they be one…

…as we are one!

As is the case each year, the media take the opportunity of the transition to a new year to remember the main events of the preceding year and also to think what the world will look like during the new year. But often, these projections are established on the basis of the experiences of the past year.

As Christians, even if it is good to analyse what has happened in the past, the start of the new year should be an opportunity to remind us of the goal of our presence down on earth. For this, let’s have a look on Jesus’ prayer, just before His arrest. His words would define the soul of the new-born church.

“My prayer is not for them alone (the disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

What would be your dearest prayer for your children if you were at the end of your life? You would maybe pray that God would protect them from evil or that He would provide for all their needs. If Jesus expressed a lot of desires for His disciples in His prayer, He puts a strong emphasis on the fact that all who would believe in Him would be united. Twice, He asks that the Church would be united so that the world could believe that He has been sent by God.

In other words, Jesus knew that the unity of the Church was an unavoidable condition to allow the world to believe in Him.

A spiritual conflict

If unity is that important for the growth of God’s kingdom on earth, it is therefore not astonishing that Satan would use division to slow down or even block its growth. Sadly, the history of the Church shows that this evil tactic has worked several times. One of the most famous division was the 1054 Schism, separating the Eastern Church (Orthodox) from the Western one (Catholic). What was at the start a theological dispute over the Holy Spirit became throughout the centuries a spiritual scar crossing Europe, growing into a source of numerous armed conflicts. At times, these conflicts would even extend globally, as happened with the First World War.

Even at present, this division is at the root of the conflict in Ukraine, an expression of the longstanding enmity between Russia and the West. To look for a solution for this conflict without considering the spiritual situation provoked a thousand year ago would be similar to cutting the visible part of a weed without pulling out its root. This would just allow the problem to reappear later in a different form.

The crucial role of prayer

As Christians, we could easily believe that we don’t have the capacity to solve problems such as are found in Ukraine. However, if the root of this problem is spiritual, the solution will only be found on that same ground. Since what is spiritual can only be solved through prayer, it is indeed the Church that holds the key to solve a conflict such as this. How could we then act? What should be our role in such a scene? We should get inspired through Jesus’ prayer in John 17. He prayed for the unity of the Church because he knew that this would only be possible because of God’s work.

I sincerely believe that if the Church stands in prayer to ask God to accomplish the miracle of unity, these great divides of old, which have blocked the growth of God’s kingdom, could finally be removed.

While many other conflicts are raging not so far from our borders, while terrorist threats are multiplying on our European ground, it is crucial that the Church unites in prayer, so that the world can receive the peace that comes from Jesus-Christ.

Cédric Placentino

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