Sunday, 26 January 2014

Rome, Italy - Comments of pastor Ricca during the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians

Here the comments of the evangelical (valdese) pastor Ricca offered during the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians in the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, thank you for the invitation to comment briefly on this passage from the Gospel, given that we are in the week of prayer for the unity of Christians. A week that
brings together in prayer all Christians, from all Churches, all traditions, from all over the world. It is maybe the time in the year during which the unity of Christians manifests itself in its highest form.
You have heard here now that the early Christian communities already experienced the phenomenon that we call division of the Church, of the Churches and in the Churches. And to address this division, that had manifested itself in the Church of Corinth, the apostle Paul raises a question, which is the following, you have heard it: “Is Christ divided?”
It’s a question that is a challenge, actually, the greatest challenge that could be posed and that has been posed to the division of the Church. This is because, naturally, the answer to this question, given by all the Christians of all Churches of all the world, is: No! Absolutely not! Christ is not divided, cannot be divided.
But then, here is the question in the question, the question that is included, hidden but present in the question of the apostle Paul: But if Christ is not divided, why are you, who are Christians, that call yourselves Christians, divided? Why can’t Christ be divided but you can be divided? And though you are divided, you do not renounce to calling yourselves Christians. Who authorizes you to be divided? In whose name have you become divided? In the name of Christ? Do you really want to claim that Christ, who is not divided, is the one in whose name you have become divided? Do you not see the flagrant contradiction of believing in an undivided Christ while you are divided? Who authorized you? Christ, who is not divided, has authorized your divisions? Do not even dare think that or, least of all, say that.
But then, did you become divided in the name of Paul? Of Apollo? Of Peter? Of Luther? Of some Orthodox patriarch? Of Pope Francis? Is it in the name of these masters that you have become divided? But who are these masters? Are they the ones that were crucified for you? Is it in their name that you were baptized? Then, who are your masters, those who rule you? Is it those who are divided or is it your Lord Jesus, who is not divided? You see, all these questions are contained in that question that Paul asks the community of Corinth. Note that, in front of this question, all our divisions should crumble like the walls of Jericho, which crumbled at the sound of a trumpet. Here are many trumpets! These walls of ours, the walls of Jericho of Christianity, should crumble at the sound of this word, of this question, that contains all the other: “Is Christ divided?”
Because when we are among each other, the ones before the others, Protestants before Catholics, Catholics before Orthodox, Orthodox before Pentecostal, etc., etc., etc. as long as we are the ones before the others, we can still explain, provide reasons, and maybe even justify. We all have our reasons to be divided. But when we are before Christ it is very difficult to remain divided, it is really very difficult, not to say impossible.
Nonetheless we stand divided. Not only. Here is our situation. 50 years ago, 80 years ago, we were only divided, now it is not so, now we are divided and united, united and divided. This is the condition we are in, a condition that is highly contradictory but is certainly a step in the right direction compared to when we were only divided: now were are also united. As in this moment: I am a Pastor of the Valdese Church, you are Catholics and we are here. This is something that would have been inconceivable 60 years ago, inconceivable.
So we are also united. This is the paradox in which we find ourselves, and therefore a step has been taken, but it is only a step, we need to proceed with the next step. And which is the next step? When will we come out of the contradiction in which we find ourselves, of the paradox we are living of being at the same time united and divided, divided and united? Which is the step to take?
It is still the apostle Paul that answers, still in the letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 3, verse 21. Listen carefully to what he is saying: “Let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you: Paul, Apollo or Peter, or the world, or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ and Christ to God.”
That is, Paul, turns our reasoning on its head. We say: I am a Protestant, of Luther. But Paul tells me: No, dear friend, you are not of Luther, it is Luther who is yours! But I am a Catholic, of Pope Francis. But no! You are not of Pope Francis, Pope Francis is yours!
“All is yours”, it is an extraordinary, an incredible announcement, “and you belong to Christ”, this is who you belong to. You are Christians , this is your identity. All the rest, Luther, Pope Francis, all the rest, all of your history, with its lights and shadows, is secondary, important but secondary compared to this one thing, that you are of Christ. Note that, in the end, the true medicine to heal the division in the Church, you know what it is? It is to be Christians. Period. To learn to be simply Christians. And when, in our life, in our existence as people and as a community, when our being Christian will be a little more important than our being Protestant, Catholics, Orthodox, in that moment the unity of the Church will be very close, maybe almost a done deal. May God want it. Amen.

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