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July 1977

That they may all be one ... so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)

Consciously or unconsciously we often try to make sense of the world we find around us: what is the point of what I do? How do I fit in with my family and friends? Why am I and so many people contradictory in our actions? Belief in God does not mean that we may unravel the complexities of life in a different way to unbelievers, but it does give a yardstick with which to measure the situation. Furthermore it allows a man to focus on the world around without fear, because the believer knows from within himself that there is an inner law which will make everything that happens have meaning, be it a personal tragedy or joy, or a national disaster or cause for celebration.

To spread this inner freedom for the good of man is what is meant by the phrases: mission, outreach, spreading the faith, or evangelisation. But it does not mean there is need to do a lot of things necessarily, to become a Christian activist for other people's good'.

Jesus himself pointed the way when he said: 'A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (John 13:34-35). When we love one another in this way, then we grow and mature in the atmosphere in which men and women can be free to become themselves. We become a group of people who are really one in heart and mind, as was the case for the first Christians. This is what Jesus is referring to in this month's word of life, the connecting of love and unity between Christians with the spreading of God's life and freedom.

That they may all be one ... so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Evangelisation is not having the truths of faith drummed in to us, but a free choice made responsibly by an individual for God. A person often responds, realising the truth outside corresponds to that which is within himself when he is confronted by people living in unity. We could give many examples of this, particularly in the case of our own conversion to God.

There is not really any divide in the life that God wants us to live in common and the experience that we make of the self. Our person is made what it is in unity with others. We become one body, the Body of Christ. But furthermore the life that begins to develop in the self is the same Christ, for we begin to turn away from selfishness to the life of unselfish giving, which is love, and which is another way of saying that we begin to conform to doing God's will. Every moment we are offered the opportunity of remaining in God rather than merely 'doing our own thing' which is a dead end for mankind as it it ultimately merely following self. So being 'one' has two effects: firstly we become one in heart and mind with others, and secondly we become one in ourselves: our whole life has a golden thread of unity and meaning running through it, rather than being a series of disconnected and disjointed experiences which is the way life is for so many people. This golden thread is the life of Christ himself.

So it is understandable why Jesus prayed that they may all be one so that the world may believe. For the unity with others and within ourselves are one and the same thing: Christ, and he promised that when we are united he is with us. (Mt. 18:20). To be a good evangelist it is not necessary to do lot of things, rather we must be Christ, and paradoxically that requires not so much the changing of others as changing oneself.

Jonathan Cotton, OSB

 

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