The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was observed Jan. 18-25. The theme was taken from John 4, where Jesus Christ asked a Samaritan woman at a well for a drink of water. The theme was apparently suggested by Brazilians, who have the custom to offer water to strangers when they approach.
Pope Francis commented on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, encouraging personal encounters between Christians that emphasize listening to each other rather than expounding on “subtle theoretical discussions.” It’s an interesting point of view, and highlights the difficulty of religious relationships. Even within denominations we have problems. The Pope followed a similar line of thought with Catholic Bishops at the Synod of the Family last October. Francis told them to think about how to be better pastors and not try to prove to each other how smart they are. And, during a trip to the Philippines, also this past January, the Pope said that the leaders should listen to women, because they see things differently than men.
Reason is given by God, but so is wisdom. Catholic thinking can be hardened and cold when intellect refuses to encounter a variety of living human beings. Imagine the male leadership becoming so humble as to respect the spectrum of women’s feelings and opinions instead of insisting we all conform ourselves to a single mold of an imagined (by men) ideal. And yet didn’t God ask humility of us all?
It is the logic of natural law that men learn in universities that says that women can’t even think (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 92, Article 1). It is no wonder women reject teachings particularly aimed at us. These rulings are based on a history of male prejudice against women throughout the ages, and within Christianity starting from the Fathers of the Church shortly after Christ left this Earth for Heaven. With non-abortive, barrier contraception as an example, Catholic leaders have consistently ignored female voices. However, perhaps there is some hope, as the problem of the Church's ostracism of women is being addressed with some insight at a Vatican meeting about women this month. Among the thoughts expressed is that Church leadership has indeed historically excluded women from decision-making, and perhaps not every complaint from women should be categorized as rampant feminism. Although this assembly has been widely criticized, it is at least a start.
It’s hard to imagine how Christians will unite between denominations when we can’t even get along within them. Then again, humans alone probably are unable to do it. We need to find how to connect with God’s grace when we face each other. Not only would that lead to agreement, it would awaken our spirits to the wonder of becoming a part of the Divine Nature. This promise is related to us in 2 Peter. To become spiritually complete is to reject false pride and arrogance. It is to live in community with love, harmony and acceptance.
What a witness of Christianity that would provide to the rest of the world.