“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others” (The Letter to the Philippians 2, 1-4).
Saint Paul’s words in his Letter to the Philippians show very clearly the practices that wound unity: competition and vainglory. He also prescribes the medicine: humility.
The Apostle exhorts the Corinthians:
“I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose” (The First Letter to the Corinthians 1, 10).
He also insists with the Romans:
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (The Letter to the Romans 15, 5).
How can we possibly glorify God as one heart and with one voice if there is strife among us?
Wounds in the Unity of the Church have always been and shall always be the most painful and harmful wounds in the life of the Church. Separatist groups and new denominations have happened because of human sinful nature. In the words of Origen (184-254):
“Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers” (Origen, Hom. in Ezech. 9,1:PG 13,732 – see CCC# 817).
Saint Ciprian (died 258 AD), Bishop of Cartage wrote one of the best texts about the unity in the Church. He shows how the evil one strives to divide the Church in these words:
“The enemy was unveiled and defeated by the Coming of the Christ, (and) he schemes new ambushes to deceive naïve people, (hiding) under the Christian name itself. He creates heresies and schisms to subvert faith, corrupt truth and break unity… He steals men from the Church and plunges them into unconscious darkness, enticing them into misleading thought that they are walking towards the light and getting distance from the secular night. They go on affirming they are Christians but they do not keep Christ’s Good News, His precepts and His laws! They think they have light though they walk in darkness! The seductive and lying enemy, in the words of the Apostle, transforms himself into an angel of light and introduce his ministers as ministers of justice; he announces night as day, eternal loss as salvation, …(and announces) the Antichrist under the Name of Christ; (the evil one) darkens and frustrates truth with subtlety and affirms that true things are illusions. That happens, dearest brothers, because nobody goes back to the origin of truth, nobody goes to its source nor guards the doctrine of heavenly teaching” (excerpt from the text “On the Unity of the Church”).
Professor Felipe Aquino
Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino