Monday, April 28, 2014

Talking to other Christians

Every Sunday we Catholics and many others profess belief and one holy catholic and apostolic church. Yet so often anyone looking at Christianity from the outside sees division. Look around the neighborhood not only have we broken the church into denominations but many refuse to be part of any grouping of Church.

Jesus's final prayer before going off to be crucified as reported in John's gospel is "that they may be one." And we can easily forget that for almost the first one thousand we lived as one Church, and we should never give up trying to restore that unity. A first step might well be learning to speak each other's language.

Growing up as a Protestant I regularly heard people talking about being "born again" without really understanding what the phrase meant. People would say you had to be born again without ever making the connection with the scripture passage from which the phrase comes.

On the flip side if you ask a Catholic if they are born again, they look at you like they don't know how to respond. So let's look at what the bible says.

unless one is born (again) from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God

The reason I put "again" in parenthesis is that the word άνωθεν can be translated as either "from above" or "again." It's a perfect example of intentional double meaning. But what does it mean to be born again/from above? All you have to do is read verse 5.

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God!

Born again is not some special condition for some select group it is baptism. In the sacrament of baptism we are reborn of water and the spirit. So as Catholics, if you are asked, "Are you born again?", the answer is "Yes." We should not be afraid of the phrase or think that it is something only Protestants say. Catholics are born again Christians. We simply don't often use that language.

Are there points of genuine disagreement in our theology? Yes. And it is a mistake to try and gloss over what are important points of theology. But the first step can be overcoming the areas where we don't disagree about content but use different language.

Both St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II took important steps toward restoring unity. Let us pray that we may continue to work to return to the unity of the original church.