Christian Disunity

Photography © by Andy Coan

Photography © by Andy Coan

Often Christians act surprised when they try to do good and things don’t go according to plan.  Sometimes it’s small but irritating annoyances that get in the way, other times serious calamities.

The Bible says that, “He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away (Rev 21:1-5).”  But this is a vision of the end of the story, of a new heavens and earth where God reigns unopposed.  The problem is that we’re still in the middle of the story, living in the old heaven and earth where there is yet plenty of opposition to the Lordship of Christ.  Regarding our sojourn in this world, Paul says, “We must undergo many trials if we are to enter into the reign of God” (Acts 14: 22).

Paul is speaking from experience here!  The Book of Acts recounts how he was run out of town, stoned nearly to death, beaten with rods, jailed, shipwrecked, and bitten by a poisonous snake.  When he and his companions came into Macedonia, he says, “Our bodies had no rest but we were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within” (2 Corinthians 7:6).  Following Christ is evidently not a cake walk.  God provides, but he does not necessarily provide comfort and convenience.

Why not?  Because if we never experience resistance, we never grow.  After all, what do body-builders do?  They expose their muscles to ever greater resistance, pushing against more and more weight.  No pain, no gain.  This is why James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2).  How kind of our heavenly Father to double as our personal trainer and add more weight to the bar from time to time.

Now it is easy to see how we should expect trials to ensue when we are dealing with those outside the Church.  But often the greatest trials come from dealing with those within.  Paul and Barnabas saw things differently and so went their separate ways (cf. Acts 15:39).  And the Judaizing Christians were a constant thorn in Paul’s side.

Yet the Lord gives us the new commandment, to love one another as he has loved us (cf. John 13: 34).  What was the context of this command?  Jesus had just washed the disciples’ feet, and Judas had responded to this act of love by slipping out into the darkness to betray his master.

We are, then, to wash the feet even of those who annoy us, or worse, betray us.  This does not mean always agreeing with them or acquiescing to their wishes.  But we are to love them, and lay our lives down for them.

Clearly, this is not natural.  It is natural, rather, to love those who love us, agree with us, think like us.

That’s the point.   We are no longer limited to what comes naturally.  The death and resurrection of Christ has cast the fire of divine, supernatural love upon the earth.  We have become “sharers in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) and we know from John that the nature of God is love (cf. 1 John 4:8).   It is now possible, though never easy, to love one another as he has loved us.  Though often painful, the experience of such love produces something that the world is restlessly searching for but can never seem to find – fullness of joy (John 15:11) and the peace which passes all understanding (cf. Colossians 3:15).

We are to love one another so that our joy might be full.  But there is another reason.  The world needs to know that Jesus is different from the many false prophets that constantly come and go.  How will they know that he is truly the one sent from heaven?  By the loving unity of his disciples (cf. John 17:23).

So what does the world see when it looks upon those who call themselves his disciples?  Not only are we divided between Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox, but even within churches, we find bickering between conservatives and liberals, traditionalists and progressives.  Is it any wonder why there are many who are skeptical about the claim that Jesus died “to gather into one the scattered children of God” (cf. John 11:52)?

Only through many trials will Christian unity be attained and preserved.  But it is not an optional extra.  It was his last wish, his last prayer, his parting command.

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C) – Acts 14:21-27; Psalms 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-33, 34-35. This series for reflections on the coming Sunday Readings usually appears each Wednesday.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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