The Pope’s Pentecost Message of Christian Unity
Last weekend, on Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis joined in worship and praise with Christians from across confessional lines. Pentecostal, Evangelical and Catholic Christians from around the world gathered for the fiftieth anniversary of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church.
He told the faithful,
Today, we are here in the open air as in a Cenacle, because we are not afraid: in the open air and also with a heart open to the Father’s promise. “All of us believers” are gathered, all those who profess that “Jesus is the Lord,”
Many have come from different parts of the world, and the Holy Spirit has gathered us to establish bonds of fraternal friendship, which encourage us on the path towards unity; unity for the mission: not to be still, no! — for the mission to proclaim that Jesus is the Lord, to proclaim the Good News to all peoples!His words call to mind what Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus:
“In Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.” (Eph. 2:14)
In this letter to the church at Ephesus, St. Paul was addressing the division between Gentiles and Jews. Yet his words fit today’s divisions among Christians, according to Francis in last week’s message
The Pope continued,
It is not so easy to demonstrate to today’s world that peace is possible. But in the name of Jesus, we can show with our witness that peace is possible! But it is possible if we are in peace among ourselves. If we accentuate the differences, we are at war among ourselves and we cannot proclaim peace.
Peace is possible beginning from our confession that Jesus is the Lord. And by our evangelization on this path. It is possible. While showing that we have differences … but that we desire to be a reconciled diversity. See, we must not forget this word but say it to all: reconciled diversity. And this word is not mine, it is not mine. It is of a Lutheran brother – reconciled diversity.
Baptism in the Spirit
Francis speaks of the experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as a “current of grace” for all Christians and for the whole Body of Jesus Christ, saying it is “not just for some, and no one among us is the ‘master’ and all the others servants. No. We are all servants of this current of grace.”
The Pope added,
Share with all in the Church the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, praise the Lord ceaselessly, walk together with Christians of different Churches and Christian communities in prayer and in action for those most in need.
Finally he concluded,
Serve the poorest and the sick, this is what the Church and the Pope expect of you, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, but from all of you: all, all of you who have entered in this current of grace! Thank you.
Unity in Diversity
During his address, Pope Francis also called Christians to unity in diversity and receptivity, recognizing that each Christian community has gifts to offer the other. This image also calls to mind the teaching of the Apostle Paul, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Cor. 12:21)
In other words, we’re incomplete without one another.
Signs of Protestant Agreement
When Cardinal Bergoglio was chosen to be Pope, one of his evangelical friends from Argentina, evangelist Luis Palau, was enthusiastic about his friendship and prayer with Francis. His interview with Christianity Today, given the day after the Pope was selected, showed prior Protestant support for the same message of unity.
An emerging scholar and leader among evangelical Protestants in the United States, Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, wrote a piece for the same publication titled, Our Francis, Too: Why we can enthusiastically join arms with the Catholic leader. George wrote:
Francis succeeds two men of genius in his papal role. John Paul II was the liberator who stared down communism by the force of his courage and prayers. Benedict XVI was the eminent teacher of the Catholic Church in recent history. Francis appears now as the pastor, a shepherd who knows and loves his sheep and wants to lead them in love and humility.
Dean George added, “Without forgetting the deep differences that divide us, now as never before we are called to stand and work together for the cause of Christ in a broken world.”