Over the summer, I took a group of teens from our youth ministry to the youth conference at Franciscan University. It is exhausting and amazing all rolled into one, but never ceases to be one of my favorite places to take teens over the years. I run on caffeine and grace the whole weekend, but witnessing the power of the Spirit move and work in those kids makes the bags under my eyes Sunday morning worth it.
That weekend I was excited to see a copy of Peter Kreeft’s latest book: Catholics and Protestants: What Can We Learn from Each Other? in the campus bookstore. As the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation approached this fall, I think every single Christian needs to read his book. I cannot stop telling all my Catholic and Protestant friends about this book.
So, what’s the big deal? Why should millennials today care about Martin Luther and the Reformation?
Because it is part of our story as Christian disciples.
It is part of our history.
And when we better understand our history, we can move forward into the future with more empathy and understanding.
The disunity in the Body of Christ breaks the Heart of Jesus. He never wanted it this way. He wants us whole and united. And what hurts the Heart of Christ, should also hurt us.
Martin Luther’s original intention when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church doors in Wittenberg was reform, not revolt. He never wanted to build a new Church. Kreeft writes, “He wanted to reform the Church, to purify her; but he wanted to reform or purify or restore not merely some of her bad accidents and corruptions, like the sale of indulgences. He wanted to reform the fact that most Catholics did not know the Gospel. They didn’t know how to get to Heaven. They didn’t know Jesus Christ personally even though knew about him.”
And really, isn’t that the same crisis we have been facing in the modern world today?
Catholic Christians who are sacramentalized, but not evangelized. There are so many Catholics do not know Jesus Christ personally in the power of the Holy Spirit.
But, praise God the tide is changing!
The Holy Spirit has been doing something powerful and fresh today. Protestants and Catholics are sincerely listening and loving each other. We are working together in radical ways to bring greater unity to the Body of Christ.
Nicky Gumble is a phenomenal example of this. He is an Anglican minister who started the Alpha course at Holy Trinity Brompton in London. His heart for Jesus Christ and working together with all Christians inspires me. The Alpha Course is a gift, a tool from another Christian brother and we as Catholics can learn much from it.
Many Catholics may not be aware of the Decree on Justification, written in 1999. It is one of the greatest ecumenical achievements since the Reformation. Through it, Catholics and Lutherans began listening with a new openness and honesty. As Kreeft writes in his book, “you can’t contradict each other unless you talk to each other. And you can’t talk to each other and respond to each other unless you first listen to each other and speak the same language.”
Yes, we do still have many differences. We still speak different languages about Mary, Scripture, and the Eucharist, and other elements of faith.
But we can learn a lot from each other.
And until we have unity someday, we must keep listening and loving and building upon what we do share in common.
So, what do each of us do?
First, I would recommend that you read Catholics and Protestants: What Can We Learn From Each Other?
Second, pray and fast regularly for greater unity among Christians; that we would continue to listen honestly and love each other in the shared desire for leadings souls to Heart of Jesus.
The Reformation still matters to us today because it is part of the story of the Church. Each of us has a vibrant role to play in this Church. And God wants to use us to build bridges and bring about healing in His Body.
That is why we should care about the Reformation.
Jesus, let Your Kingdom come!
Come restore what has been broken!
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