As you may know, Pope John Paul II spoke of the Western and Eastern churches as the two lungs of the Body of Christ, reminding us that the Body needs both lungs to be healthy.
Last week, while processing Pope Benedict XVI’s surprising resignation, I read an article about the ways he has kept that view alive during his papacy. The article was accompanied with a photo of Benedict and the Metropolitan of Istanbul holding raised hands and smiling happily as they obviously faced a crowd who had gathered to see them.
As I read the article and gazed (yes, that’s the word–gazed) on the photo, I was reminded of John Wesley’s words, “If your heart is as my heart, give me your hand.”
I pray that the affinity between Western and Eastern Christianity will increase under the next Pope. I think it is in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
We have harmed our witness over the centuries by the ways we have spoken and acted toward other Christians. A fallen world doesn’t know (or care) about our differences. It only monitors our spirit in relation to one another.
And too often, we have been rightly judged to have failed to reflect the spirit of Christ to fellow Christians, while espousing Christ’s call to “love one other.” It is only to our shame that we quote “God so loved the world” while failing to apply it to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
When Jeannie and I go to the beach, we stand on the shore and take a deep breath, filling both lungs with fresh air. God help us to allow the breath of God to fill both our lungs, so that our individual and collective soul can live.