Pope Calls for Christian Unity: To proclaim Jesus Christ, You Must Know Him Personally.
'We can be witnesses only if we know Christ first hand, and not only through others -- from our own life, from our personal encounter.'
Pope with some of his beloved priests.
The Pope made this reflection today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. He took up the theme of ecumenism, as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is under way.
This year's theme for the prayer week is "You are witnesses of these things," taken from the Gospel of Luke.
The Holy Father considered what is referred to with the phrase "these things."
"If we look at the context of the chapter [of Luke], 'these things' means above all the cross and resurrection," he explained. "The disciples have seen the Lord's crucifixion, they see the Risen One and thus begin to understand all the Scriptures that speak of the mystery of the passion and of the gift of the resurrection. 'These things,' therefore, is the mystery of Christ, of the Son of God made man."
However, the Pontiff continued, the essential point here is that by knowing Christ, "we know the face of God."
"Christ is above all the revelation of God. In all times, men have perceived the existence of God, an only God, but who is far away and does not show himself. In Christ this God shows himself; the distant God becomes close. 'These things,' therefore, above all with the mystery of Christ, is that God has become close to us," he explained.
And he continued: "This implies another dimension: Christ is never alone; he came in our midst, died alone, but resurrected to attract everyone to himself. As Scripture says, Christ created a body for himself, gathers the whole of humanity in his reality of immortal life. [...] All this, therefore, is very simple, in the last instance: We know God by knowing Christ, his body, the mystery of the Church and the promise of eternal life."
A second question arises, Benedict XVI suggested: "How can we be witnesses of 'these things'?"
The answer, he affirmed, is that we can be witnesses only by knowing Christ, "and, knowing Christ, also knowing God."
The Pontiff contended that "we can be witnesses only if we know Christ first hand, and not only through others -- from our own life, from our personal encounter with Christ. Finding him really in our life of faith, we become witnesses and can contribute to the novelty of the world, to eternal life."
To proclaim this message of God-made-close, Christians need to be united, the Pope affirmed.
However, he said, the path of ecumenism -- though under way for more than a century -- is not linear.
"Old problems, born in the context of another time, lose their weight, while in the present context new problems and new difficulties arise," the Bishop of Rome observed. "Therefore, we must always be ready for a process of purification, in which the Lord will make us capable of being united."
And unity, he acknowledged, is something that will come about in God's time,
"Only God can give unity to the Church," he said. "A 'self-made' unity would be human, but we want the Church of God, made by God, who -- when he wishes and when we are prepared -- will create unity."
Hence, the Holy Father urged prayer: "Because of the complex ecumenical reality, because of the promotion of dialogue, and also so that Christians of our time can give a new common witness of fidelity to Christ before this world of ours, I ask for everyone's prayer. May the Lord hear our invocation and that of all Christians, which in this week is raised to him with particular intensity."
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