Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
'That they all may be one'
by Bishop Blase J. Cupich
(From the November 20, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
As I reflect in these final days as your bishop and try to find words to express what is in my heart, my thoughts turn to the prayer of Jesus found in the Gospel of John, Chapter 17. There the evangelist gives us a ringside seat to listen in on the conversation Jesus has with the Father, thereby making his prayer a final farewell to the disciples. I take as my own his petition to the Father and his message to the community. It is quite simply: That they all may be one.
However one puts it, staying together, being one, joining hands in common purpose, or treasuring the bonds among yourselves, unity is a gift given to us, a treasure, that should not be squandered or wasted. Let me suggest as a parting message three ways for you to keep your unity fresh; three ways to experience and deepen your unity as followers of Christ: 1. In your common aspiration for the life God offers us; 2. In the encounter with Christ you share; 3. In accompanying each other on the journey you are taking together.
1. United in Our Common Aspiration
Each one of us in our own way desires a full life, a meaningful life, a life that means something. God gives each of us an insatiable aspiration, which can only be filled by him. We share that in common. But, we also share in common the tendency to quench this thirst for the full life God offers us in ways that never satisfy – accumulation of goods, passing pleasures, the pursuit of praise. As a community of faith we gather each weekend to remember and celebrate the Risen Lord working in our midst, as the only One who can satisfy the longing of the human heart. Our commitment to Sunday Mass attendance is a solid affirmation that we are unwilling to live half-full lives, and that we take responsibility for affirming each other in that commitment. Sharing that common aspiration for God in a very public way each week will give us an experience of the unity that Christ prayed for in his final farewell, a prayer I make my own for you.
2. United in the Encounter with Christ We Share
Each of us has our own story, our own journey of faith, in which we have met Christ along the way. For some it was many years ago; for others, more recently. Regardless, each of our encounters with the Risen Lord has transformed our lives, orienting them in a new direction, so that we no longer live for ourselves but for Christ. This life-transforming experience is at the heart of our Know Love and Serve pastoral planning process. As I noted in my pastoral letter, “Joy Made Complete,” beginning with the first disciples of Jesus and continuing throughout the ages, the life-transforming experience of encountering the Risen Lord has compelled Christians, even in the face of daunting challenges, to set their sights higher. When we are touched by Jesus, our hearts are left burning for more, and that “more” is nothing less than sharing him with others. Nothing else matters. Others just have to be told about the new life Christ is offering all of humanity. Know Love and Serve is simply about making a commitment to each other that we will share Christ with others. That commitment is our common bond with each other, and brings about the kind of unity that Christ prayed for just before he died.
3. United in Our Accompaniment of Each Other on the Journey
When we recognize that we each have our own story and journey, it is then that we accept the mission of walking with and supporting each other along the way. Pope Francis speaks of the importance of accompanying each other, especially those whose path is more arduous and steep because of the circumstances of their lives, their own weaknesses, or the injury they have suffered. Those we travel with have been given to us in our family, or at our place of work, or as a result of our seeking out those who are lost in our good works of charity. As a diocese, we unite in making sure that no one is left behind through our support of the many ministries and services in our diocese supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal and the Christmas Collection for Catholic Charities. We have made great progress in both of these stewardship programs over the past four years, and I encourage you to do everything to build on that success. This year you will be without a bishop when these two appeals are made. I ask you – I challenge you – to show your support for the priests in the diocese as they take up the task of journeying with you under the leadership of the diocesan administrator by being generous when they ask for your participation in these two appeals. Be united in your common sacrifice, in your generous accompanying of one another.
I want to close with a text from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, which captures my parting wish and the sentiments in my heart as I write this final farewell. In fact, I intentionally chose it as one of the readings for the Mass of Installation in Chicago on Nov. 18, with you in mind.
I give thanks to my God every time I think of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, ... And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what really counts, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
As I have written in this column and spoken countless times at the Eucharist, I now say a final time, with my pledge of prayers and deep affection:
Peace Be With You
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