Hope for Christian unity in a festival of new life

Published on 28th Mar, 2024

WelCom April 2024

Fr James Lyons

What does Christianity look like to those who are not Christian?

For much of the last 500 hundred years the Church of Jesus Christ has looked and acted as very divided, with Christians fighting among themselves, their differences highlighted by large numbers of sects and denominations.

The prayer of Jesus that his followers might ‘all be one’ (John 17:11) is far from realised.

But, over the last century, a desire to heal and restore relationships between the various Christian ‘churches’ has become very apparent and there is now a tangible sense that we are on a journey towards unity.

In New Zealand our bishops have formalised ‘Dialogues’ with Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans and have strong links with inter-faith and ecumenical programmes.

The approach today is to explore and celebrate what we have in common rather than focus on what divides us.

An initiative from our Dialogue with the Lutheran community is a ‘Festival of New Life’ on the Sixth Sunday of Easter which, this year, is Sunday 5 May.

This occasion invites parishes to appreciate the gift of faith through baptism. We have all been baptised in Christ and, realising this, provides a starting point for the seeds of unity to take root.

As the first disciples grasped the meaning and power of the resurrection of Jesus, they recalled his words urging them to remain in his love (Gospel reading 5 May). This urging was emphasised in the shape of his commandment for them: Love one another as I have loved you. (See John 15).

No Christian community has consistently lived that commandment, but in our own time we are witnessing hearts changing, prejudices disappearing and goodwill coming to the fore.

By designating the Sixth Sunday of Easter as a Festival of New Life, our bishops signal both hope and confidence in the movement towards Christian unity.

Baptism is the sacrament that unites Christians in the Body of Christ, the People of God. 

The baptised become ‘new creations’, grafted into the life of the Trinity, forever linked to the Risen Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, our Helper and Guide. 

Whether or not there is a parish celebration, we can each make the Sixth Sunday a personal ‘Festival’, giving thanks for the amazing gift of faith and sincerely praying for all who share faith with us.

This year is the first time a Catholic | Lutheran initiative is offered to all New Zealand parishes. Just as every new life signals a new beginning, may this Festival of New Life become a sure stepping stone on our journey to unity.

Membership of New Zealand Roman Catholic | Lutheran Dialogue includes Sr Kathleen Rushton rsm, Fr Tom Rouse ssc, Fr James Lyons, Rev Mark Whitfield, Mr Petrus Simons, Mr Jim McAloon.

The RC | Lutheran Dialogue group will be providing homily notes and prayer of the faithful ideas through each diocese for the new Festival of Life ecumenical event on Sunday 5 May.

The post Hope for Christian unity in a festival of new life first appeared on Archdiocese of Wellington.

Have a question? We can help. Get in touch with the Diocese.