“Has Christ been divided?” This is the question that Paul rhetorically asks to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:13), and this is also the question that Pope Francis commented upon in his homily at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. His brief meditation shows the passion that is a defining mark of the present pontificate, but it also restates important aspects of the traditional Roman Catholic view of unity that has been expounded since Vatican II.
A Given and a Goal
The first remark has to do with the understanding of unity as a “goal”. In commenting on the developments of the ecumenical movement, he speaks of “journeying together on the road towards unity,” implying the idea that unity stands ahead of us as if it were a goal to be eventually reached. Unity is therefore in the future tense. What does exactly unity mean here and why is it in the future tense? Later on, the Pope makes a comment that sheds light on these issues. He refers to the prospect of “restoration of full visible unity among all Christians” as the future climax of the ecumenical path. There is need, however, to unpack such a statement.
Click here for the remainder of Dr. Leonardo De Chirico’s article:
This article by de Chirico left me alarmed. As always, I agree with him. Yet, the following sentences referring to Francis’s prayer practice really pained me.
“In closing his homily, Pope Francis reports that he had previously visited Paul’s tomb in the Basilica with other Christian leaders and they exhorted one another with these words: “Let us pray that he (Paul) will help us on this path as we advance towards unity”. Is Paul really the one to pray to for the advance of unity? Is he really in the position to help?”
Of course, no saint – not Paul, not Mary, and not one of those many true (and false) saints of the RCC – ought to be addressed through prayer by dead persons talking with a living person (the latter is a true saint who already died physically). If they – the “dead” who still live on earth but are not yet born again – even address false saints, one should listen to Jesus’ warning words here,
“Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:60-62 – ESV)
Also, does it sound as if Jesus was speaking of any kind of visible unity here on earth?
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:34-37 – ESV)
Rather, Jesus spoke of that unity in the invisible kingdom of God which can be created solely by the Holy Spirit.
“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (Jn 17:11 – ESV)
Well, and to whom should we – exclusively – pray if we want to be heard? Jesus Christ, of course,
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim 2:5 – ESV)
This is a biblical principle, valid for everyone.
Nonetheless, if a saint has been perfected (in love) during his lifetime on earth, or in other words, if a saint has finally died to self (Gal 2:20) and has thus become completely one with Christ, then there is no longer any separation between our Heavenly Father and us. Jesus said,
“In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (Jn 16:26-27)
Considering the fact that some of my own Roman Catholic relatives pray to “saints”, I have been wondering whether that tradition might spring – inter alia – from Paul’s statement there,
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thes 4:13-14)
Paul had “the information”, the mature knowledge of the kingdom of God as “a man” who was no longer “a child” (1 Cor 13:11).
God willing, He can show us people who died, who have been saved by Him, and who thus already live with Him [I am just offering one of my own experiences here http://theoldadam.com/2014/01/07/our-lutheran-theology/#comments ]. But that’s not our task to search for a relationship with family members or saints “on the other side”. The OT clearly warned about those abominable practices.
“When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” (Dt 18:9-12 – KJV)
“And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” (Is 8:19 – ESV)
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