Ecumenism of Tears: A Reflection for the Week of Prayer for Christian UnityJan 22nd, 2014 | By Tom Brown | Category: Blog Posts
As I quoted from Pope Francis in yesterday’s post, in our times there is an ecumenism of blood binding together persecuted Christians. Without meaning to detract from this rich expression, it seems to follow from it that Christians also can share in an ecumenism of tears. Do we shed tears over our divisions? If not, why not?
When I came to believe the teachings of the Catholic Church, and consequently left my Reformed faith, my parents cried. I remember the awful feeling I had one night when, in conversation about our theological divisions, my sister began crying. Of course, my wife cried on many occasions throughout this evolution. Perhaps more than anyone, I cried. At least for myself, these tears were often selfish, brought about by frustration over how tiring the experience had become, or over how badly I felt about disappointing others. These were not tears tending toward Christian unity.
But at times I also cried simply and generously, as when I would pray in a quiet church, reflecting on the history of Christian schism. I’ll admit, I stopped crying once I entered the Catholic Church, almost certainly because I stopped reflecting carefully on the profoundness of our disunity.
As I said yesterday, we Christians are not merely friends, but brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 2:11-12.) If a brother or sister runs away from home, what is the half-life of our grief over this separation? With true fraternal love, which must be our ambition, the grief would be unending. For me, in discussing ecumenism with my separated brothers and sisters, it is frighteningly easy to shrug off the outcome of their theological analysis — to shake the dust from my mental sandals after giving them a piece of my mind.
An ecumenism of tears shed on account of our disunity would do wonders to heal our divisions. And there is plenty to grieve besides just our divisions. We also can cry in grief for the sins of the whole world, which is in so much need of Christian love and Truth. Consider, for example, the grieving mothers living in war-torn Syria. Or, on this January 22nd, consider those experiencing grief following abortion. Finally, let us reflect on the tears shed by Mary at the foot of the cross, as she watched her precious Son, whose hour had come, give up His life “that they may all be one.” (John 17:1,21.)
Surely the flowing together of these waters can nourish the soil of ecumenism within our own hearts.
Lord Jesus, may we be united through an ecumenism of tears with our separated brothers and sisters. By your grace, may we realize our shared grief over the sins of this world, and over the ways in which our disunity fails to shine forth your light to all nations. Amen.