by Ryan Thurman
Yesterday, during the Ash Wednesday service in the Anglican church here in Gozo, we were all surprised, including the priest, to find out that the Catholic Bishop of Gozo had written a letter to us, and sent his secretary to read it on his behalf. In this letter the Bishop shared with us that during this season of Lent he was calling on all the Catholic churches in Gozo to take up a special Lenten offering that would go to the Anglican church to help with the very costly and necessary renovations of St. Paul's Church in Valletta where the Anglican church has been worshipping for 175 years. Can you imagine this? How did this happen when Catholics and Anglicans have such a painful past, each having deeply wronged the other and both historically viewing the other “with suspicion and hostility,”
Why did the Bishop of Gozo make this gesture? Here are a few thoughts:
1) Jesus prayed to the Father that Christians would be one in him and the Father is answering this prayer. (John 17)
2) There is a rising tide of Christians from all traditions whose passion is to offer themselves to see this prayer of Jesus become a growing reality in our day.
3) The Holy Spirit is breaking down barriers and opening up unimaginable possibilities.
4) This Bishop is simply following the example of Pope Francis.
Earlier in the week Pope Francis continued his journey of firsts. He became the first Roman pontiff to set foot in an Anglican parish inside his own Diocese of Rome. He spoke to a crowd of both Catholic and Anglican faithful affirming that things are changing and today Catholics and Anglicans recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism.
He exhorted Christians everywhere to follow the example of Paul, who “did not give up in the face of divisions, but devoted himself to reconciliation.” In Corinth, while helping the communities work through division he encountered deep tensions in their relationship, “these did not have the final word,” Francis said, explaining that the two communities eventually reconciled, and the Christians in Corinth eventually helped Paul in his ministry to the poor and needy.
I believe as Christians from different traditions learn to walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ, building friendships of trust and empowered by the Holy Spirit, follow the example of Jesus by humbly serving one another and serving together those in need the merciful face of Jesus will be made visible in our cities and the world will believe that the Father sent Jesus
I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind--
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are--
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.
-John 17:20-23 The Message