August 7, 2015

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

To fulfill Jesus’ hope for humankind, make love the basis of what you say and do

David SilerThere is a particular route that I drive to work at least once a week that takes me through some of our most impoverished neighborhoods. I intentionally do this to remind myself of who it is that we serve in Catholic Charities. I noticed one morning on my ride in that within a 12-block stretch there are 15 Christian churches—including one of our own Catholic churches. I was reminded of one of the very few prayers that Jesus prayed that was recorded in Scripture.

On the night before Jesus was to be crucified, after praying for his disciples, he prayed for all who would come to believe in him. Jesus prayed, “… that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:21).

Jesus prayed for unity in the Church because he knew that if the world would see us together in one heart and one mind—the heart and mind of Christ—that the world would know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was sent by God, and come to believe in him and all that he taught.

This 15-church stretch got me curious as to the number of Christian denominations. This is a difficult statistic to estimate worldwide, but most estimates indicate that there are about 40,000 denominations worldwide. Unity? Not so much.

I would venture to guess that all 15 churches on this brief section of my route struggle for members and struggle financially. I wonder if the pastors of these churches have ever come together to discover what unites them, in answer to Jesus’ own prayer. Jesus knew that the Church could never impact the world the way he wished unless the world saw oneness in the Church—a unity.

I fear that the churches of the world have never taken seriously enough the prayer of Jesus. As a result, due to our disunity, we are seeing the results.

The world does not see us as one, and our division and even our in-fighting does not allow the world to see that the Father and the Son are one. Grouped together, we are truly not a body that is terribly attractive!

Lately in our own country, Christians have received the most attention for what we are against, rather than what we are for.

I believe that for unity to flourish together across these thousands of denominations, we have to get crystal clear about what we are for, and what we are for is no more complicated than who God is—love. When love becomes the basis for all that we say and do, we may just stand a chance of fulfilling Jesus’ most solemn hope for humankind.

Love put into action is service. One of my favorite service projects was building a Habitat for Humanity house alongside my brothers and sisters from a variety of faith traditions. There, the neighbors saw us working together to build something beautiful.

In the same way, we can build a beautiful world by serving together.

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at

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