We provided input in two sessions. In this first article, I report on a workshop on Christian unity, the first value of JC2033. In another, I will report on a stimulating meeting between various movements highlighting the path to 2033.
A Relational Unit
Gathered with a thousand people in the S. Andrew Church, Peter Smith, American Bishop, recalled that working for unity is integral to the Christian life, not optional.
Why is unity important? Because God wants it according to John 17:20-21. It is necessary for the world to believe that the Father sent Jesus. The true sign of the coming of the Spirit is not speaking in tongues, but the love of unity. We see this from the beginning, to unite Jews and pagans, God sent His Spirit to the pagan Cornelius, as He did to the Jews at Pentecost.
Unity does not mean uniformity. The Trinity is the model of unity in diversity, and the Holy Spirit respects diversity.
From the beginning of the charismatic renewal, there were Christians from other denominations who helped this current emerge in the Catholic Church. God used them. Renewal is, therefore, intrinsically ecumenical. Moreover, unity is one of the three axes of “Charis” with the experience of the Holy Spirit and attention to the poor.
Theologians agree that each Christian is also called to be a worker for unity by sharing life in Christ. Pope Francis insists on this point. For him, a new apostolic energy, as on the day of Pentecost, is necessary. “The Holy Spirit works wherever there are open hearts.”
Unity, Condition of Mission
For Mons. Juan Usma, collaborator of the Dicastery for Unity (Vatican), Jesus gives three mandates before leaving his own, that of love, that of unity and that of the mission. Unity and charity are the conditions of mission.
Seeking unity is not an activity, but a daily attitude and service. Loving Christ, the Church and its unity are a whole. We cannot work for unity outside the Church.
We must create favorable conditions to grow in unity. One of them is the prayer that the charismatic renewal lives with intensity.
Without the Holy Spirit we cannot move forward, because he generates unity. Welcoming the Spirit means working for unity. J. Usma pleads for an “ecumenism of the Holy Spirit”. He rejoices when we announce Christ together. May the apostle’s call resonate in all of us, “Do not quench the Spirit !”
American Pentecostal pastor Joe Tosini (left in photo), founder of the John 17 Movement, recounted his “Damascus Road” after living in the hippie movement where he rejected the Christian faith. His encounter with Jesus gave him the answer for which he was desperately looking, the ability to love.
Having become a pastor, he was shocked by the divisions among the Churches. Apparently, “everyone had their own Jesus.” One day he heard Jesus say to him: “I only have one wife.” He then began to invite ministers from other Churches. That led him to put himself at odds with the leadership of his own. Subsequently, he had a fruitful ministry among students and in a community that he had founded.
“In 2013, the day after the election of Pope Francis, I woke up at 3:13 in the morning and felt that the Spirit was asking me to pray for this Pope”, he says. He understood that he was being called again to give his life for the unity of the one Bride! This is how he founded the “John17 Movement”, which now has a great influence in the USA.
“After meeting him, Pope Francis asked me to tell this story to everyone. God does not bring us together like a club. He is a Father who wants his whole family to be in His house...but sometimes it is difficult to get along as a family.”
Unity for Testimony
Olivier Fleury, founder of the JC2033 initiative, which invites Churches to prepare for the 2000th anniversary of Resurrection of Jesus, recounts how the Holy Spirit gave him a vision of a global celebration of this jubilee, in unity.
Unity is walking together with Christ, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. But, they then testify to their meeting.
He therefore insists that unity is a means, not an end in itself. In John 17, unity leads to announcing and understanding the message of Christ, but the goal is the glory of God. “We are here on earth to show the glory of God to the world, which needs his love and ours.”
Olivier received this vision in 2007. At first, he was alone, but along the way, he met several people who had the same vision of unity. Great is his joy that tomorrow evening a session will be devoted to the “2033 agenda” that “Charis” is proposing, along with several other movements.
Mark 2033 in Your Diary!
Huw Warmenhoven from Australia and Maria Gonzalez from Spain are two leaders of the Alpha course in a Catholic context. Both were convinced of the ecumenical dimension of Alpha, which wants to help the Church evangelize. “Evangelization is impossible without unity,” says Maria. “The spirit of prayer and common mission is what unites us in Alpha,” continues Huw.
The next day, Anglican pastor Nicky Gumbel shared that the discovery of this journey revolutionized his life. He found that so many people turned to God and received the Holy Spirit by participating.
The Catholic Church has opened its doors wide to him. To date, more than 30 million people have followed Alpha, 25% of whom come from the Catholic Church.
“The message hasn’t changed, but the packaging needs to be changed,” he says. This message is that we are loved. The Holy Spirit poured out in our hearts assures us of this. This is why it is so important to lead people to experience the Spirit in a safe and friendly place.
“I hope you already have 2033 marked in your calendar. My prayer is that all will hear the Gospel by then. Let’s do it together,” he concludes!
United in Christ
Mateo Calisi, founder of the “United in Christ” movement, comes from Bari, Italy where the tomb of Nicholas of Myra is located. This saint is honored by the Orthodox Church and in the basilica Catholic and Orthodox liturgies are celebrated. The grace of charismatic renewal also passed through this place.
His experience with the Pentecostal movement began when he met Pastor David du Plessis, a pioneer in Pentecostal-Catholic relations. The latter told him that he would have an international ministry of reconciliation. After 40 years, he acknowledges that this prediction has come true.
Living the Spirit of the Beatitudes
As for me, a Reformed pastor, I was asked to give a testimony on the different stages of my journey for unity (see my contribution).
Here is my conclusion. “As my journey continues, I feel that to move forward on the path of unity, we must always have the courage to return to Christ's prayer for His disciples before His Passion (John 17,21).
My experience is that if we look to the CrucifIxion, live the spirit of the beatitudes that Christ Himself fully incorporated - loving against all odds as he loved - He will manifest the power of His Resurrection. And, the Holy Spirit will move us forward on paths of unity that we could never have imagined!Martin Hoegger