In 50 A.D., the apostle Paul arrived at Corinth, the great city in Greece known for its strategic commercial port and its active cultural circles influenced by many different currents of thought. The apostle spent 18 months there proclaiming the Gospel and he founded a flourishing Christian community. Others came after him and continued the work of evangelization, but these new Christians tended to identify with the person who had brought Christ’s message to them, rather than with Christ himself. Factions arose: “I belong to Paul,” some would say. Others, referring to their own favorite apostle, would state: “I am with Apollo,” or “I am with Peter.”
Faced with the divisions that rocked the community, Paul vigorously intervened. He compared the Church to a building or a temple and insisted that although the builders of the Church can be many, only one is the foundation, the living stone: Jesus Christ.
This month especially during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Christian Churches and communities come together to remember that Christ is their sole foundation, and that it is only by following him and living according to his Gospel that they will reach full and visible unity among them.
“…for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ.”
To base our lives on Christ means to be one with him–to reason as he does, to want only what he wants, and to live as he lived.
But how can we become grounded, rooted in him? How can we be fused into one with him? By putting the Gospel into practice.
Jesus is the Word, that is, the Word of God who became flesh. If he is the Word who assumed our human condition, we will be true Christians by being men and women who imbue our entire lives with the Word of God.
If we live according to his words, or better yet, if his words live in us and make us “living Words,” then we are one with him, as if bonded to him; I or we will no longer exist, but the Word will live in all of us. We believe that by living this way we will contribute to bringing about unity among all Christians.
As the body breathes in order to stay alive, so the soul finds its source of life in living the Word of God.
One of the first fruits is that Jesus comes to live in us and among us. This calls for a change in the way we see things: it injects into the hearts of all (whether they be European, Asian, Australian, American, or African) the same sentiments that Christ had in the face of any circumstance, individual people, and society at large.
This is the experience that one of my first companions lived. Giulio Marchesi had worked as an engineer for one big company and then as the CEO of another important firm in Rome. The many experiences he had at work and in his social circles brought him to the disconcerting realization that self-centered interests were frequently the motivating force behind people’s decisions and that, as a result, true happiness could not be reached in this world.
One day, however, he met some people who lived the Word of Life, and then everything in him and around him seemed to change. In trying to put the Gospel into practice as they did, he too began to notice a new fullness of joy in his heart. He wrote: “I experienced how the Word of Life is meant for everyone. It sparked a real revolution in my life. It changed my relationship with God and with every person I met. Each one was now a brother or sister and I even had the impression that I had always known them. I also felt God’s personal love for me: all I had to do was pray to him. Basically, by living the Word I found a whole new freedom.”
And he never lost this sense of freedom even when later in life he was confined to a wheelchair.
Yes, the word lived out sets us free from human conditioning. It is a source of joy, simplicity, fullness of life and light. It helps us to follow Christ and to become like him little by little.
«…for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ»
But there is one word that summarizes all the others, and it is love: to love God and neighbor. In these two commandments Jesus sums up “the whole law and the prophets” (Mt 22:40).
Since the words of Scripture, even though expressed in human terms and in different ways, are the words of God, and since God is Love, all his words are love.
What should be our aim this month? How can we draw closer to Christ “the only foundation of the Church”? By loving as he taught us.
Saint Augustine once said, “Love and do as you will” (In Jo. Ep. Tr., 7,8). In effect he was summarizing the law of love of the Gospel because by loving we cannot go wrong. Love will lead us to fully carry out the will of God.