Faxed extracts for Bishop Clark: manuscript note: "I congratulate you on putting together the scrappy notes I dared to send you. The final result isn't "bad". Alan C Clark"
Extracts from the homily preached by Bishop Alan Clark on Sunday, 22nd January 1995 in the week of prayer for Christian Unity
This celebration is an annual recognition that Jesus Christ bestowed the gift of unity on his church from the very beginning This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic church as something she can never lose. Let us pray that it will continue to grow until the end of time.
Jesus continues to give his church the gift of unity. The church on its part must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, develop and perfect that unity that Christ plans for her. "That they may all be one as you Father are one in me and I am one in you,".
The gift of unity is given but not received in full. The desire of all Christians must be to recover that unity which is the closest to Christ's heart. It is a gift of Christ. It is a call of the Holy Spirit.
The purpose of this gift and call is the reconciliation of all Christians: Unity of mind and heart conformed to the will of Christ. This unity transcends merely human power and gifts and abilities. That is why the other Christian virtue of hope in the prayer of Christ for his church is important. The awareness of the love that the Father has for us, the power of the Holy Spirit to find us, all are part and parcel of our search for unity.
Where are we on this journey towards unity? We are certainly on a road of reconciliation, even though that reconciliation is beyond human power to achieve. We are on a road of hope because our effort is embedded in the prayer of Christ for his church. We are rooted in the love the Father Has for every one of his children. We are sustained on our tourney by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the enterprise is dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit which transcends all human effort.
Our effort requires constant formation of mind and heart. We need to continually rediscover, remake, rebuild our understanding of God's plan for as as individuals and for his church. This is not a question so much about knowing every doctrine but about allowing the conviction born of the spirit to seize and possess us. This endeavour is a way of behaving, bearing witness to Christian values in every circumstance. Note the need of a changing witness in the changing patterns of behaviour in these last fifty years. Attitudes, outreach pastoral endeavour have had to change as human circumstances have changed. The search for unity demands an openness of mind a capacity to listen at a deep level to the firmly held convictions of others. It demands a desire to enter into dialogue with a vital and humble trust that God is at work in the midst of our endeavours.
We are committed to Christian unity, a visible unity. Not just a longing or a yearning but a specific building up of a community of faith sharing life based on the gospels and the witness to the revelation of God for the sake of our fragmented world. The immense complexity of this enterprise is sustained by the conviction that the underlying purpose and goal of all our endeavours are union with God which is the gift of Christ.
And so we all walk a common path in our search for unit with God. We need only to find in our resting in the heart of God that we discover him through unfolding prayer. Unfolding prayer is the writing of the ecumenical story whether in the lives of people as they rest in the heart of God or in the theological exploration which is essential to a common mind and respond to God's revelation.
Why is the ecumenical question so complex? Because it is fundamentally a human question and nothing is more intractable than human organisation and relationships. It is complex because we forget that God has already given us the answer. The gift of unity is given in the revelation of Jesus Christ his Son. We attempt to construct a human version of God's revelation. We need as churches to rediscover the authenticity of the clear message of revelation, salvation, and communion in the love of God for the whole of his creation.