"The state of the world depends on the state of the believers." This is what the renowned theologian Ludwig Weimer writes in a text prepared for us. In pursuit to our last European newsletter, we would like to give you access again to some basic thoughts in our spiritual landscape of our continent.
Let's take advantage of the occasion of Pentecost to pray for Europe in a special way. Thanking you and asking you to help us spread the word, we remain,
The Team Europe for Christ in Vienna
Jesus' Testament in the gospel of John 17
Europe's roots are grounded in Athens, Rome and Jerusalem. Athens and Rome provided the thought and technical skill, Jerusalem provided the Jewish creed and the hope of the primitive Christian community for the kingdom of God after salvation, when brotherly love has once been re-established. In what way do Jesus' last words in the gospel of John contribute to these foundations in Europe? Strictly speaking it is the Evangelist John who addresses us. It is him who delivers Jesus' testament for all Christians to come. And it embarks in an urgent plea to the people of God to remain one. John clearly distinguishes Jesus' disciples from the people of the world, yet he sees the disciples' work to be one in and on the world. The state of the world depends on the state of the believers.
"Hated by the world"-since "not from the world"
'World' refers to the sinfulness of the European. Deceit, violence and sex determine the founding according to mythology: Zeus kidnaps Europe in the guise of a bull, for possessing Helen the war for Troy is being triggered out (George Steiner). The 'world' has not recognized God, says John, because it abuses the freedom, which is granted to man. This severe truth is part of the wealth of experience of Jewish-Christian wisdom. The counterpart is: to be "sanctified through the truth" (John 17,19), or: "faith and reason" (Pope Benedict XVI). Israel, Jesus and the apostles accepted God's will and alternative. How can the rifts in the creation be healed when the just and believers, since their service is challenging, are a minority?
"I have sent them into the world"
How can a Christian minority balance the rest of the huge society? Just think of an old-fashioned precision scale: on one scale you have the small society of Christians, and on the other scale the whole weight of the world. It is the appropriate quality, namely the weight of our Christendom - Jesus called it salt, leaven, city on the mountain - that enables us Christians to keep the salvific balance in our surroundings and society. This can be done at best through example, by committing ourselves in all fields and aspects of life and thus demonstrating that they can be coherent, just and beautiful. One might call this new evangelizing through fascination. There is not even a missionizing campaign needed. Beautiful and conspicuous objects automatically attract man, by appealing to his curiosity and to purposefully bring into action his lust for noble competition.
"They shall be complete in unity"
When the disciples are being addressed by "you", it refers to a concentrated power. They are no isolated egoists. They have understood their mission to be God's tool in the world, to continue Jesus' works in virtue of their community. This network of God's people formed by communities, is to embrace countries, states and continents, though the minority is powerless, yet powerful through truth and love. Martin Buber found the term "mid-united community": the periphery of us were just a social entity, it is the radii towards a common centre that make it substantial. What is our centre? All are united by experiencing the history with God. Jesus' testament names the fruits: joy about the love of God, wealth and glory. God has two arms and hands, in order to be able to work into the world: his Holy Spirit and his Son Jesus Christ. Yet when Jesus has been killed, he needs followers. Those are his workshop, his people, his parish, where his and Jesus' spirit works.
Christ himself can only pray for unity
In the world scattering is natural, unifying is miraculous. The world which cannot find peace needs the example of Christians. "That the world may recognize, ... that the world may believe", this is Jesus' prayer to God Father, and quite distinctive: I am praying for them, not for the world, but for all those, whom you have given me". This is being realistic, and this is being logical. God needs collaborators, and he finds a minority only. Yet they suffice - if only splitting did not occur, which makes many a thing incredible and all too humane. When we think of schisms, we normally forget the primeval separation between Christians and Jews. It was the "primeval schism" (Cardinal Walter Kasper), which means we Christians are not the sole heir instead of the Jews, but we are separated from the Jewish root. The non-redeemed covenant between God and the Jews should actually be the first and foremost item of priority in our ecumenical efforts. Because it is this covenant that Jesus is praying for. It is scandalous, that even Gods Son and his death could not bring about the unification of God's chosen people. Even Jesus can only pray for that.
Those who pray are aiming at unity with God's will in prayer. Prayer is work on the human heart by God: it should recognize God's wishes and conform to them. It is the beginning and determination for an appropriate life and action and cannot be ineffective.
Professor Dr. Ludwig Weimer teaches at the "Chair of Theology of God's People" at the Pontificial Lateran University in Rome (www.ltvg.org).