05 Editorial - One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism - One Mission in Christ!

posted Jan 9, 2019, 8:59 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 8:59 AM ]
Pope Francis, during an ecumenical service celebrated on January 25, 2018 in Rome to mark both the feast of the Conversion of St Paul and the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, told the ecumenical leaders of several Christian communities that the grace of Baptism creates a unity in the family of God. Even when differences separate us, we can recognise that we have the same Baptism, and we belong "to the same family of brothers and sisters loved by the one Father… So, when I raise my thanksgiving to God for what He has done in me, I find I do not sing alone, because other brothers and sisters have my same song of praise." In fact, the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans and various Protestant groups claim to have a common baptism with each other, and despite differences, all share the same fundamental faith.

In His baptism at the hands of John, Jesus is consecrated as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh (Mk 1, 11; cf. Is 42:1,4; 53:4-70). The Father accepts Him as "my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" since He accepts solidarity with sinful humanity and is destined to suffer vicariously for the people. His baptism points to the Cross in which all baptisms will be fulfilled (cf. Mk 10:18-19). The significance of baptism for the mission of Jesus is to be a mission of preferential option for the poor, of healing and liberation (Lk 4:18-19). Christian baptism, the initiatory rite for those who wish to belong to Christ, a "putting on" of Christ (cf. Rom 8:19), implies adopting His values and attitudes. It symbolises unity and harmony with all the children of God. Hence, the Christian is impelled to collaborate with all people of goodwill to strive for peace and social justice! In this perspective, some outstanding Christian thinkers, like Robert De Nobili, Keshab Chandra Sen, Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya, Manilal Parekh, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Raymond Pannikkar, M. M. Thomas strongly affirm that religious initiation should not lead to deculturation, denationalisation or the loss of original social identity. Consequently, while all values and customs of a particular religious society which are not fully in accord with the Gospel or even human values need to be challenged and purified, all that is positive in any culture or religion should be respected, preserved and transformed.

Now spiritual ecumenism is indeed the soul and the heart of the ecumenical movement. The first place in spiritual ecumenism belongs to prayer, which joins Jesus' own prayer on the eve of His death "that all may be one" (Jn 17:21), which culminates in the 'Week of Prayer for Unity'. Tertullian had already declared in the third century that "the blood of martyrs is the seed for new Christians." In fact, the 20th century has seen an unprecedented number of martyrs from our churches: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. This glorious band of witnesses, say Pope St John Paul II and Pope Francis, have given a great impetus to our ecumenical commitment.

However, as affirmed by Vatican II and the WCC, the unity of the Church is not a goal in itself, but an instrument, sign and anticipation of the unity of all humankind. Thus, the universal context of the commitment for the unity of the Church, affirms Cardinal Walter Kasper, has further implications for social and political 'diakonia'. Consequently, in our context, where society is divided along communal, caste, linguistic lines, it will be basically a Christian commitment to justice. And in this commitment to the Kingdom of God will the Churches manifest an authentic catholicity viz. a genuine universality that reflects the universal, all-embracing justice and communion of God.

Fr Gilbert de Lima, Commission for Ecumenism, Archdiocese of Bombay