Did you know that we are currently in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity? Every year from January 18 – January 25 the Church encourages us to pray for the unity of all Christians and encourages Christians to pray together.
Father Rocky, Executive Director/CEO of Relevant Radio®, stopped by Morning Air® this week to discuss the importance of Christian unity, and why it is something that all Christians should pray and work toward.
“We pray in common for the unity of all Christians, because it’s very, very elusive,” Father Rocky said. “We’re all encouraged to pray for unity, to work for unity, but I think it’s important to understand why unity is important. The night before Jesus died He was in the Upper Room in Jerusalem with His apostles. He’s about to institute the great sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, He’s about to institute the great sacrament of Holy Orders when He prays out loud for unity among the apostles.”
While we may think that a lack of unity among Christians is a more modern concern, Father Rocky pointed out even the first Christians struggled to be fully united.
Speaking of the apostles, Father Rocky noted, “They’ve been living and working together for three years, and He’s brought together men who may not have associated with each other beforehand because they had different interests. Matthew was a tax collector, Peter was a small businessman with a fishing business. So there was tension between them when Jesus gathered them together and prayed for unity.”
We read in the Gospel of John, chapter 17 that Jesus prays, “That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” As we see from Christ’s prayer, Christian unity is a key aspect of Christian witness and evangelization.
“This is a great scandal in the Christian tradition, and that is Christians are not united in one Church,” said Father Rocky. “At the beginning, there was one Church, the Catholic Church. And after a while, it split into other factions. And then we had the Protestant Reformation with Martin Luther in 1517, and now there are hundreds of Protestant denominations. ”
Father Rocky explained that the focal point for unity established by Christ is Peter. In Matthew chapter 16 Jesus says to Peter, in the presence of the other apostles, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Father Rocky noted that when it comes to the importance of Peter and the papacy for Christian unity, it is not only non-Catholic Christians with whom we need to pray.
“I like to repeat to people, and I need to hear it myself, what my grandmother (may she rest in peace) used to say,” Father Rocky recalled. “She said, ‘Don’t be more Catholic or less Catholic than the pope.’ I thought that was kind of amusing when I was a kid. I had no idea how profound it is. And I like to repeat it often to our audience.”
“Don’t be more Catholic or less Catholic than the pope,” he emphasized. “Well, that takes a certain amount of humility. And people who are very well-educated I find they can have a really hard time with obedience and humility. They like to think for themselves, which is not bad because God gave you a brain, but unity is very, very important in the Church.”
While we may think what we really need for unity is to find a killer argument to convince other Christians that they’re wrong, Father Rocky pointed out that Christians telling other Christians how wrong they are is not the path to unity.
“Unity is a gift that you give,” he said. “It’s not something you achieve or you work out. It’s a gift, it’s when you surrender. You say I’m going to be united with the others, I’m not going to hold onto the grievances, the offenses, the bitterness, and all the rest.”
Psalm 133 tells us, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!” Christian unity is not only a blessing for the Church, but for all people.
“When we decide to be united God blesses us with peace and joy in our family, in our community, in our country, and in our Church,” said Father Rocky.
Listen to the full conversation below: