Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > M-RC > Rio Rep. 1996 | CONT. > Introduction
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    1. In the continuing search for the doctrinal agreement necessary to full communion between Catholics and Methodists, the Joint Commission now treats what are usually called, in theological terms, ‘revelation' and ‘faith'. We are looking for commonly acceptable ways of expounding the historical self-disclosure and indeed self-gift of the triune God, focused in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and brought home to successive generations of believers by the Holy Spirit, released in power at Pentecost. We are seeking a common account of how men, women and children, opened to the gracious presence of God, are enabled to commit themselves, body and soul, heart and mind and will, to their Maker and Redeemer and, in communion with him, become renewed in the divine image, in the holiness and happiness which is God's intention for humankind. God's revelation and the human response to it constitute the substance of the Church's faith, mission and sacramental life; and the more common the account we can give of these things, the closer we may come to one another in our understanding and practice of them and so be readier for full communion between us.

    2. Seeking to place its work under the Word of God, the Commission heard anew the opening words of the First Letter of St. John:
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our own hands, concerning the word of life the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:1-3).

    This sacred text starts from the particularity of the God of Israel's self-revelation in Christ: the divine Word, who was in the beginning with God and has led the history of the chosen people, has been made flesh in Jesus. That sheer self-gift of God is a word of life to humankind: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. In Christ, in his words, his deeds, his entire existence, God has been revealed in audible, visible, palpable form; God has been received by human ears, eyes, and hands. What the first believers have taken in, they then bear witness to and transmit, for the message spreads the offer of a life shared with God. The modes of the announcement will appropriately reflect, echo and hand on what was seen, heard and touched in the embodied manifestation of God in Jesus Christ. Accepted in faith, the words, signs and actions of the Gospel will become the means of communion with the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The divine life into which the Spirit introduces believers will be a common life, as each transmits and receives what is always the gift of God.

    3. In this passage from Scripture, we find already indicated all the main themes of the Commission's deliberations and report: the gift of the revelation of the triune God; the human response of faith; the proclamation, as missionary message, of what has been received in faith; word and sacrament as the intelligible and tangible means of grace; communion with the triune God as the very life of the Church, the community of believers which in God's name offers to the world the salvation that the Church already anticipates with joy

    4. The revelation of the triune God is the source of the Church's faith, the Church's mission, and the Church's sacramental life. These are three essential ingredients in the full communion our commission has declared is the final goal of our dialogue (cf. Towards a Statement on the Church, § 20; The Apostolic Tradition, § 94). Revelation, faith, mission and sacramental life are briefly described below. The main body of the Report will go on to look at each in more detail, to outline their connections, and then finally to offer a vision of our goal of full communion.

    5. Revelation is God's self-disclosure to human creatures. Having already left a divine mark in all that he has made, God initiated a more direct self-revelation by speaking to Abraham, who was called to the land where his descendants would dwell. The Creator became known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham and Sarah, who received the promise of God, have been seen as models for all believers. Giving the law through Moses and leading the chosen people through judges, kings and prophets, God was known to the people of Israel in a unique way among the nations. And this knowledge of God, and of our human condition before him, has been conveyed to later ages by the Scriptures of the Old Testament.

    6. In the midst of this chosen people, at the appointed time, God sent the divine Word, who took flesh from the Virgin Mary as Jesus, the Christ, the Redeemer and Mediator, in whom the divine revelation was fully embodied. The first response to this revelation in Christ, is formulated in the Scriptures of the New Testament, which are thus normative for all later ages.

    7. The Scriptures attest that it is by the Spirit of God that human beings see God manifest in history Thus their response to revelation is more than a mere reaction to extraordinary events; it is ‘faith', that is a knowledge that involves complete personal commitment, body and soul, heart and mind, to the divine self-disclosure - of the One whom Jesus called "Abba, Father", of the Word whose presence and action is perceived in the words and acts of Jesus Christ, and of the Spirit, the Enabler and Supporter of all who believe.

    8. Revelation and faith are thus correlative events and moments. What God reveals through Jesus is apprehended in faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. While this faith was, in the Old Testament, an inspired response to God made known as the Creator and the Law-giver who also spoke through the prophets, it is, in the New Testament, shaped by the fundamental awareness of the tri-unity of God that has been preserved and continues to be experienced in the Christian community. That witness to this Trinitarian faith has been handed on in the apostolic tradition. It has been preserved in successive ages by baptism in the threefold Name of God, "the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit", formulated in the traditional creeds, and reflected in the decisions and exhortations of the great councils of the Church. Catholics and Methodists are in full agreement on this Christological and Trinitarian dimension of revelation and of faith.

    9. God's revelation aims to bring about communion between humankind and God. The faithful response to God's gift of himself is fundamentally one of grateful acceptance and loving self-surrender. All who have welcomed the revelation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit feel bound to celebrate together the wonderful deeds of God and to declare them in mission to the world:

    - Christians have always been ready to give an account of the hope they share (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) and have professed their faith publicly United with Christ through baptism and the Lord's Supper, they are called to make their own the faith of the whole community of believers. Sunday after Sunday, Methodists and Catholics make the same fundamental affirmations of faith during worship, and this realization impels them to work towards unity of faith in every aspect of Christian life.

    - From the day of Pentecost, believers have gone out in the power of the Spirit to share what they have seen and heard and handled. They have done so aware that the gift they have received is not for themselves only; that Christ through his Spirit has commissioned them to make disciples of all the nations. Faith flows out in mission. Catholics and Methodists recognize that they have to overcome everything that prevents them from bearing united witness to the one God revealed in Jesus Christ.

    - The community that professes its faith and reaches out in mission to the world experiences the reality of Christ's promise "I am with you always, yes to the end of time" (Mt 28:20). Its life together, above all its worship, manifests this grace of God. In its prayer, preaching and sacramental rites it is nourished in communion with God and offers an invitation to humankind to accept the salvation offered in Jesus Christ. Here, too, Christ's Spirit challenges us to be reconciled at one table in a unity of worship and praise so that the world may believe.

    10. By baptism, and the faith in Christ which it signifies, Catholics and Methodists already enjoy a certain measure of ecclesial communion. The purpose of the dialogue between us is to increase and deepen our relationship until we reach sufficient agreement in the Christian truth that our common baptism can without equivocation be completed in our mutual participation in the Meal to which the one Lord invites us and all his followers. The unity we seek to promote is not solely for our own enjoyment but for the sake of a credible witness to the reconciliation that God in Christ has wrought for the world and therefore among humankind. Our unity is to allow us to "glorify with one mind and one voice the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 15:6), in anticipation of the day when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that "Jesus is Lord", to the glory of God the Father (cf. Phil 2:10). As Catholics and Methodists, we are inspired and sustained by a vision of the crowning moment when "there will be a deep, an intimate, an uninterrupted union with God; a constant communion with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, through the Spirit; a continual enjoyment of the Three-One God, and of all the creatures in him!" (John Wesley, Sermon 64, ‘The New Creation', 1785).


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