Last weekend I went on retreat with about 30 people from across Ontario. We were a diverse group, with women and men of all ages, vocations and very different views about God and faith. Despite our seemingly radical differences, we were profoundly united in prayer and friendship. There was an abiding sense that all of us were truly united in Christ. As a result of our shared hope and faith, we bonded as a group and left each other on Sunday as companions along the journey, with new friendships and hope for the future of the Church.
Our time together was marked by two particular feasts in the life of the Church. We began our journey on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch and ended it on the day of Pope Paul VI’s beatification. Although the two men came from two very different periods in the Church’s history—one from the early Church, the other from our own time—each of their stories share much in common. Both were bishops of the Church firmly grounded in the belief that theirs was a ministry to be pontiffs, bridge builders. Each led the Church during times of great turmoil and even, I dare say, persecution. And they both gave of their lives to handing on the faith in its wholeness, while at the same time articulating it in new ways for new generations of Christians. From what we know of their lives, they both suffered much. One from martyrdom, the other from a Church caught in the tumult of social, political and religious change.
Irregardless of the great difficulties they faced in their ministries, both bishops gave of their lives to the ministry to which they were called. They were bridge builders, servants who stretched their arms across to draw all into the life of God. Just consider Pope Paul VI’s remarkable meetings with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Patriarch of the ancient Church of Constantinople! Only years before had such meetings been unimaginable. Yet today, because of Pope Paul VI’s commitment to dialogue and friendship, we experience more ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues than ever before.
As we celebrated Eucharist on Friday, the first day of our retreat, I could not help but look upon my retreat companions and wonder if it isn’t time for us to have more women and men as bridge builders.
Ours is a time that is marked by great divisions in our communities, churches, workplaces and homes. Yet as people of faith, are we not called to stretch out our arms as Christ did on the cross and unite all into God? Do we not take serious Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper for us to be one? Are we not willing to cross social and political boundaries as Jesus did with the woman at the well and reach out to the marginalised?
These are tough questions for us all. Yet if we truly do believe that we are sons and daughters of God who share the good news of Jesus, then I think we must be compelled to do all that we can to build the Kingdom of God and seek unity and peace with all God’s people.
-Don Beyers, Relationship Manager and Acquisitions Editor