The Call to be One in Christ

The Call to be One in Christ

January 30th, 2012 by Maurice Blumberg Print This Article Print This Article ·ShareThis

The battle is not yours but God’s. (2 Chronicle 20:15)

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so 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. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-24)

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Again, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:19-20)

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

As we come to the end of the end of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, it is easy to get discouraged about the divisions among Christians, since we have covered this ground so many times. It has been over 47 years since the Second Vatican Council produced the seminal document, “The Decree on Ecumenism.” However, much progress has been made in building bridges to other Christian denominations.  After all, it was not too long ago when Protestants thought Catholics were going to Hell, and Catholics thought Protestants were going to Hell–a time when many Protestants didn’t think Catholics were even Christians.

Fortunately, times have changed and relations between Catholics and Protestants have greatly improved, especially since Vatican II, when the fathers of the Church made a real effort to reach out to our “separated brethren” in a spirit of humility and reconciliation. Now there is a fairly broad recognition among Christian denominations that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

In spite of the progress made, since Vatican II, the divi­sions among Christian denominations can still seem entrenched and formida­ble. Misunderstandings still abound as to what non-Catholics think Catholics believe. I have personally met non-Catholic Christians who believed Catholics worshipped Mary. I have also spoken with Protestants who believe Catholics think they are saved by works, that they worship statues, and that purgatory is a place where unsaved Catholics go to get saved. Many non-Catholics still don’t understand the Mass, the Eucharist and other Sacraments, communion of saints, and many other Catholic teachings.

As Catholic men, we may feel powerless against them, especially as it often seems that some of our divi­sions are becoming only deeper. But don’t forget: This battle is the Lord’s, not ours, to win (2 Chronicle 20:15). It is the power of the Holy Spirit, not our power that will make all Christians truly one in Christ and bring about a unified Church. We, as Catholic men, need to cast ourselves on the Lord’s mercy and allow him to use us as his ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).

But first, let’s be clear about the enemy we face. That enemy is not other denominations but the way we have all turned from Jesus’ prayer that his church be one (John 17:20-21). Our objec­tive in ecumenism is not to demol­ish others’ positions and arguments but to bridge the gap of hostility and misunderstanding between us.

Perhaps, the time has come for a new type of apologetics – one that unites and not divides. Great progress will be made when Christians from different tradi­tions, including theologians, stop attacking each other and try to understand what each other believes and why. Great things will happen when this occurs. For example, Lutherans and Catholics have come to substantial agreement on the very issues that were so hotly contested during the Reformation, including the doctrine on “justification by faith”.

So how should we, as Catholic men, “do” ecumenism? If a non-Catholic Christian family invited us for dinner, we wouldn’t start our conversation by bringing up all our differences with the host. If we don’t know where someone is in his walk with the Lord, it’s probably a good idea to stay away initially from sensitive topics. Instead, we can focus on what we do have in common: As baptized Christians, we are already united in our faith in Christ, “given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The person we are talking to is a brother in Christ, our “blood” relative, and that’s something we can both rejoice in!

Once we’ve gotten to know them better, we will naturally want to share something about our faith with our brothers (and sisters)—and what could be more natural than prayer? No matter what our denomination, we know that when two or more are praying in his name, Jesus is with us (Matthew 18:20). Praying alongside those of other traditions will open our hearts to be more loving toward them. It will help us to repent of any judgmental attitudes we may have picked up about them. And it will show us how much they have to offer—for if we really are one body, then we need each other.

A wise pastor once said regarding ecumenism, “None of us has it all together, but together we have it all.” Just as our “separated brethren” can learn from us, so we can learn from them. Let’s face it, none of us has all the answers. Because the unified church Jesus longs for has yet to come about, each denomination, each individual, may grasp an aspect of the truth that may have eluded others and can enrich us all.

When Jesus prayed that we become one, so that “the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21), he was asking for a kind of unity among Christians that is unfamiliar in the society we live in. He wanted the people to be able to look at us and say, “This unity is different than the world’s unity! They have something I’ve never seen before, but I want it.”

Jesus knew that others would be convinced not by what Christians look like, or even just the words we use, but by the love and compassion we are able to show to one another – the love that he has already shown to us (John 13:34-35). This love comes from Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us, and it gives the power to all Christians in the Body of Christ to become living examples of unity and brotherhood.

“Lord Jesus, send out your Spirit, and give all Christians the strength and wisdom to reach out to one another. Heal the wounds and every division in your body, and make it whole! Father, make us one. Help us to repent of our own sins against unity.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
  1. Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. In light of the title of this article, what do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
  2. The article lists several areas of Catholic doctrine that are often misunderstood my non- Catholics. As a Catholic man, what is your experience in discussing doctrinal differences with Christians of other denominations? Were these discussions fruitful? Why or why not?
  3. In the article, we hear these words: “Perhaps, the time has come for a new type of apologetics – one that unites and not divides. Great progress will be made when Christians from different tradi­tions, including theologians, stop attacking each other and try to understand what each other believes and why.” What is your reaction to these words? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  4. How would you answer this question posed in the article? “So how should we, as Catholic men, “do” ecumenism?”
  5. The article contends that “None of us has it all together, but together we have it all” and “Just as our ‘separated brethren’ can learn from us, so we can learn from them”? What have you learned from Christians from other denominations as you prayed with them and shared your faith with them?
  6. Take some time now to pray for the grace, strength and wisdom to reach out to our “separated brethren” and be “ambassadors of reconciliation and unity,” Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.
Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, a ministry of The Word Among Us to the military, prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men, for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at or
This article is part of NFCM's sponsorship of the Catholic Man channel. Contact NFCM at PO Box 8540, Waco, TX 76714 or e-mail them at If you would like to make a contribution to the NFCM, click here.


Why do I have to confess to a priest?

Are You Leading Like Jesus?

February 1st, 2012 by Dr. Tracy C. Miller Print This Article Print This Article ·ShareThis
“Go and preach the Gospel. And if you must, use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi to his followers

One of the foundational principles of the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus is that “our actions speak louder than words.” In my book by the same name, we take up this issue almost immediately, noting that anyone who is known to be Christian participates in building the “Christian brand.” That may sound like modern business-speak, but actually it comes from the Third Century priest and theologian Tertullian, who noted that the behavior of other Christians in his time had prompted a pagan “to put a brand on us.” And that brand was very positive: “See how they love one another.”

How much that must have pleased the risen Jesus, who told his disciples at the Last Supper: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn. 13:34).

In our society we tend to think of religion as a private matter, so we’re inclined to forget that it also has a public dimension. Christians and non-Christians alike are inclined to judge a person by reference to their known affiliations and creeds. Moreover, they are also inclined to judge the affiliations and creeds themselves. So when our behavior is not consistent what our religion professes, it not only reflects poorly on us, it reflects on our religion as well.

When Jesus was asked which commandment was most important, he said we should love God above all else and love our neighbor as ourself (Mt 22:37-39, Mk 12:30-31, Lk 10:27). So when we act in ways that are perceived as unloving for any reason, we are subject to judgment — and so is our church and all of Christianity, and sometimes even Jesus’ own teaching and life.

When I used the example of how Mohandas Gandhi’s appraised Christians in my book, it raised the ire of at least one reviewer on’s website. Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike Christ. If Christians really lived according to the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.” The reviewer objected that Gandhi was ungrateful, given all that Christians had done for the people of India. That may be true. But it nonetheless speaks to the power of personal example in shaping people’s perceptions of Christians and Christianity — including, of course, Catholicism.

On the other hand, when individual Catholics or Catholic agencies act in ways that are perceived as consistent with Jesus’ teaching and example, people are attracted to Jesus, his teaching and the church. For example, with the case of the tens of thousands of people who have joined the church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), it seems that nearly all of them began their journey because of the everyday kindness and example of Catholic family members, friends and neighbors.

For another example, many times non-Catholics have told me how grateful they are to Catholic Charities for providing them with assistance for a variety of things, including marital counseling and adoption services. They make it clear that the experience has made them favorably disposed to Christian principles in general and Catholicism in particular — and some of them confess that before they were assisted, they held very negative opinions of Catholicism and Catholics.

What they are describing is an evangelizing conversion experience even if it doesn’t prompt them to become a member of the church. We distinguish between proselytizing, which is seeking to convert people to particular church membership, and evangelizing, which is preaching the Gospel in word and deed so as to open people’s hearts to the Lord’s saving grace.

Leadership happens every time someone tries to influence someone else, so leadership is everyone’s work. So it is with evangelization. As Pope John Paul II said in 2004: “Now is above all the hour of the lay faithful, who, by their specific vocation to shape the secular world in accordance with the Gospel, are called to carry forward the church’s prophetic mission by evangelizing the various spheres of family, social, professional and cultural life.”

When we strive to lead like Jesus, we are more closely living and loving like Jesus too. And when we’re doing that, our behaviors are evangelizing others — whether it’s a matter of encouraging them to be more favorably disposed to Gospel values or it’s inspiring them to become even more committed and hopeful disciples of Christ.

As a practical matter, once people know we are in any way affiliated with Jesus’ teaching, our deeds and words will influence how they think of us, of our affiliation and of Jesus himself. Either we are affirming ourselves, our faith and our Lord to them or we are disparaging all three in their eyes.

Which do you want to be known for — by your neighbor and by your God? And what are you going to do about it?