What did you do in Rome? Where did you go? What did you see?
“I was in Rome to visit with Pope Francis.”
The simple answer is “he is a friend of a friend.” My friend Tony Palmer was a friend of Pope Francis and friends always want their friends to know each other. Before Bishop Tony’s death, he had arranged for several of his friends to meet with Pope Francis. Bishop Tony and Pope Francis shared a dream together. They dreamed that the prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17, would become a reality in our lives.
“Our world needs unity; this is an age in which we all need unity. Not just unity for the sake of the social economy, but a unity that answers the very prayer of Jesus.” (Pope Francis)
“…that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21 NKJV).
So I have been with Pope Francis because I am a friend of a friend who believes that Jesus prayed for and desires for us to live in unity with Him and with each other, so that unbelievers might come to know Him.
Jesus told us, “A new commandment I give to you, that you also may love one another. By this all will know that you are my Disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Unity is the manifestation of our love for each other. “For the love of Christ compels us…” (2 Corn. 5:14) to walk in unity and friendship with one another. Jesus said, “…I have called you friends” (John 15:15). “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). If He gave His life so we could be friends it is time, past time that we reach out to one another and be friends.
So why did I come to visit with Pope Francis? (who by the way wanted to be addressed as Father Francis) Because he is my friend! And friends visit with each other. They share their weakness’s and their strength’s. They share their dreams, their hopes and their hearts with each other. Friends pray for each other.
Father Francis says, “Whenever we Christians are enclosed in our groups, our movements, our parishes, in our little world we remain closed, and the same thing happens to us that happens to anything closed. When a room is closed it begins to get dank. If a person is closed up in that room he or she becomes ill. Whenever Christians are enclosed in their groups, parishes and movements, they take ill.”
It is time for Christians to be healed. Healed of the wounded and broken relationship between brothers and sisters. This healing requires our cooperation.
My friend Tony used to say, “division is diabolical, diversity is divine.” The Church is diverse but she is also called to the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of Peace” (Eph. 4:3)
Father Francis is “a friend of a friend” who has become my friend. He encouraged us to share the Life of Jesus with everyone! He says, “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others. When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment.”
We are all called “to do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). In order for Evangelism to have it’s greatest success it needs for the church to live in unity. “… then the world will know you are my disciples” (John 13:350, and “…. that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21).
It was my privilege to have met Father Francis…. to share the dream of unity, to pray for unity, and to look for ways of living in unity.
Jesus prayed that prayer and I believe that it will be answered as we contemplate and cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
Thank you Tony! Your life, your dream, your ministry has not been forgotten and it will never end.
The Miracle of Unity …. has not only begun, but it is growing!